Originally published: 7 November 2019
Author: Salley Vickers
Published by: Viking Books
Length: 297 pages
Reading dates: 3-7 November 2019
Grandmothers is the story of three very different women and their relationships with the younger generation.
Nan is a well respected poet but writes under a pen name so no one knows her true identity. She has a brilliant relationship with her cheeky grandson Billy. They like to visit Kew Gardens together and she gives him great advice. Nan is quite keen to get things in order, he even helps her choose her coffin!
Glamorous Blanche is the grandmother of Kitty and Harry and as the story opens her son and daughter in law have forbidden her to see them as it came to light she had a glass of wine while looking after them. She is absolutely heart-broken and starts to self destruct, drinking heavily and shoplifting.
Minna is a retired teaching assistant who has a wonderful relationship with one of her ex-pupils Rose, and has become a surrogate grandmother. Rose loves to visit Minna in her shepherds hut, where they play with toys together and share their love of books.
I adored The Librarian at the beginning of this year and was very excited to read this and it didn’t disappoint. For one thing it really made me think about the role of grandparents in our lives. It took me back to when I was a child and I would visit my grandparents and help in the garden, play with my granddad’s train set or stick in stamps together!
This book covers a year in the life of these women. All three dote on their grandchildren and are all very different. Their paths overlap: Nan and Blanche meet when Nan spots her shoplifting and takes her for a cup of tea and Nan and Minna meet on a holiday in Weymouth when Billy and Rose also become friends. The relationships with their grandchildren was just wonderful – all different but all an equally important part of their lives. I found the children of Nan and Blanche didn’t come across at all well at all, often taking advantage of them. Blanche’s daughter in law was particularly awful – banning her from seeing her grandchildren but then demanding money from Blanche for school fees!
There is humour in Vickers’s writing: I especially liked the thought of Billy sitting in Nan’s coffin to watch TV! Grandmothers is a fantastic character study, unusually looking at the older generation who aren’t generally represented in literature. Vickers really gives life to her characters. I found this charming novel hugely enjoyable.
And if you are shallow like me, it is worth noting that the hardback edition is stunning with beautiful end papers and even a little ribbon bookmark! I have a paperback copy of The Librarian but will be upgrading to the hardback edition soon!
Thank you so much to Hannah from Penguin Viking for inviting me on the tour and for sending me a copy of the book.
About the author:
Salley Vickers was born in Liverpool, the home of her mother, and grew up as the child of parents in the British Communist Party. She won a state scholarship to St Paul’s Girl’s School and went on to read English at Newnham College Cambridge.
She has worked, variously, as a cleaner, a dancer, an artist’s model, a teacher of children with special needs, a university teacher of literature, and a psychoanalyst. Her first novel, ‘Miss Garnet’s Angel’, became an international word-of-mouth bestseller. She now writes full time and lectures widely on many subjects, particularly the connections between, art, literature, psychology and religion.
Her principal interests are opera, bird watching, dancing, and poetry. One of her father’s favourite poets, W.B.Yeats, was responsible for her name Salley, (the Irish for ‘willow’) which comes from Yeats’s poem set to music by Benjamin Britten ‘Down by the salley gardens’.