Before I talk about the actual book, I just need to mention the beautiful, eye-catching cover because I do love gorgeous book covers, and I’m a firm believer that regardless of what ‘they’ say … books are most certainly judged by their covers!
Robert and Phoebe are siblings who are both in their early sixties. Truth be told, neither of them is particularly content with where life has landed them. Robert is married to semi-famous news-reader Farida, and they have two adult children. Robert has found that recently he and his wife no longer make as much effort as they used to in hiding their disdain for each other, and he spends as much time as he can in his garden shed writing his great novel … so far he’s been writing it for three years! Avoidance will do that, you know.
Phoebe is a struggling (mostly failing) artist living in a small Welsh town and dwelling on her many past disastrous relationships. She tries to compensate by embarking on yet another hopeless liaison with the strange Torren, who lives in a dismal hut.
Bringing the two together, and out of what would be their otherwise quite isolated lives, is their father James. He’s ageing and ailing, and since their mother died he’s in need of full-time, live-in care. But seeing as their parents had decided to retire out in The Cotswolds, neither Robert nor Phoebe live near enough to be pop in on a daily basis. Previous carers have not lasted the distance, but finally, they strike gold when Mandy arrives and within days it’s clear that she’s perfect for the job. She’s able to manage James, his medication and his finicky ways and understands the business of what it’s like to have an active mind in a declining body, for he was a particle physicist once … not always the elderly man he is today!
So, reassured, Robert and Phoebe get on with their own unhappy existences, and they visit James when they’re able to. But they quickly notice that there are quite a few not so subtle changes. The father who was usually absent during their informative years, and whose attention they craved and competed for, who drove other carers away with his grouchy behaviour, becomes positively amiable and pliable with Mandy around! She takes him on ridiculous outings, introduces him to inane TV shows he would never before have bothered with, and before long his speech is even littered with her common slang expressions. They slowly start to realise that they’re actually jealous of the relationship that their father has with Mandy – a relationship that they, his own children have never been able to cultivate themselves!
Moggach masterfully steers her readers through the rocky landmine-filled complexities of family relationships; those younger years when, as children, we’re oblivious to our parents being individuals who exist for no other reason than to fulfil our every want and need, leading up to our adult years, by which time we’ve formed our own ideas as to who our parents are and the roles they play in our lives and each others’. But what happens when these preconceived notions turn out to be entirely wrong? The author does a stellar job of unravelling a lifetime of memories, picking through them from the perspectives of the various players.
Deborah Moggach’s writing creates a vision that is like a piece of beautiful glass being held up to the light, and then in one abstract moment, it slips from one’s grasp, only to shatter into shards on the floor! Upon trying to piece them together again, we realise that we cannot reassemble the whole as it was, but that there can be a different type of allure in the new creation that’s been made.
An outstanding, highly recommended 5-star read! Many thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me on this fabulous book tour. Look at what other bloggers are saying about The Carer …
Deborah Moggach, OBE is an English novelist and an award-winning screenwriter. She has written nineteen novels, including The Ex-Wives, Tulip Fever, These Foolish
Things, Heartbreak Hotel and Something to Hide. She lives in London.