Originally published: 5 March 2020
Author: Sarah Butler
Published by: Picador
Length: 258 pages
Reading dates: 4-8 March 2020
Jack and Bet Chalmers have been married for 70 years. They live in the Elephant and Castle district in London in a flat which they reluctantly moved into when their old flat was demolished to make way for improved housing. They loved their old flat – they loved the views of the London skyline and they were happy there.
Jack visits the local shopping centre every day, just to get out and have some exercise. It is there while sitting in his local café that he meets Marinela, a young Romanian woman who is studying photography at University. She chats to Jack and offers to come and take Bet’s photo at her 90th birthday party. From that chance encounter a lovely friendship springs up, especially between Bet and Marianela.
Bet doesn’t go out with Jack, her sight is deteriorating and she isn’t as steady on her feet as she used to be. Their son Tommy is adamant they should go into a home for their own safety, somewhere that will provide them with meals and round the clock care. But Bet especially doesn’t want to go – she still values her independence.
The blurb on this book and this beautiful cover made me desperately want to read this book. Every item on the cover is referenced in the book somewhere.
Married for 70 years? That is truly amazing but as we find out in this book, things haven’t always run smoothly for Jack and Bet. They have both kept secrets and Bet and Marinela realise they have quite a bit in common.
Marinela is just lovely. The friendship she gives to Jack and Bet is completely selfless. They remind her a little of her beloved grandmother who has died and she enjoys spending time with them, cooking and cleaning and just making their lives a little easier.
Told from the point of view of the three main characters, the relationships in this book are all wonderful. I love the idea of a book being based around a 90 year old couple, two people who still know their own minds. Even Tommy who could come across as a bad guy for wanting his parents to go into a home is handled sympathetically and I could easily see both points of view.
Tender and heartfelt, I absolutely loved my brief visit into the characters lives – this was a wonderful read. Five big fat shiny stars from me!
Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and to Picador for sending me a finished copy! Take a look at the other great bloggers below.
About the author:
Sarah Butler is the acclaimed author of two previous novels, Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love and Before the Fire. Her writing has been translated into fourteen languages. She is also the author of a novella, Not Home, written in conversation with people living in unsupported temporary accommodation. Sarah is a part-time lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University and lives in Manchester with her family.