Published: 18 February 2021
Author: Marianne Cronin
Published by: Doubleday
Length: 400 pages
Reading dates: 6-8 February 2021
Life is short. No-one knows that better than seventeen-year-old Lenni living on the terminal ward. But as she is about to learn, it’s not only what you make of life that matters, but who you share it with.
Dodging doctor’s orders, she joins an art class where she bumps into fellow patient Margot, a rebel-hearted eight-three-year-old from the next ward. Their bond is instant as they realize that together they have lived an astonishing one hundred years.
To celebrate their shared century, they decide to paint their life stories: of growing old and staying young, of giving joy, of receiving kindness, of losing love, of finding the person who is everything.
As their extraordinary friendship deepens, it becomes vividly clear that life is not done with Lenni and Margot yet.
I had a feeling I would love this book from the moment I started hearing about it. And thanks to a bout of insomnia, read it in just a couple of days (which is unusual for me at the moment!)
17 year old Lenni is a resident of May ward, a ward at a Glasgow hospital for children and young people with life-limiting conditions. She is dying but still has plenty of life in her. One day she covers for an old lady who is rummaging around in a bin by distracting the nurses and from that moment on, Lenni and 83 year old Margot become friends. They bond in the newly created art therapy room at the hospital and decide to embark on a project to paint 100 pictures, one for each year of the combined total of their lives.
Margot tells Lenni her life story through a series of narrated flashbacks and pictures she paints. I loved hearing about Margot’s life – it is a reminder when you see an old person, that there is so much more to them than the person sitting in front of you. Margot has lived a life – she has loved and lost many times and some of her stories moved me to tears.
Lenni is just an amazing character and we also hear about her much shorter life. She is funny, remarkably strong and quite naughty, often sneaking away from her bed to the annoyance of some of the nurses. One of her frequent haunts is the hospital chapel and there she strikes up an unusual friendship with Father Arthur who at first doesn’t really know what to make of Lenni’s forthrightness but soon comes to care for her deeply.
This is a remarkable novel – I knew I was going to cry but that was OK The overwhelming themes of friendship and love outweighed the sadness. All the characters in this book absolutely shone, from Lenni and Margot to even some of the minor characters including “New Nurse” whose name we never find out but who has a soft spot for Lenni and “The Temp” who is instigator of the art room where Lenni & Margot get to spend their time.
A remarkable debut, yet another 5 star read from me – February has been awesome for books! I think this is going to be one of those books that everyone is talking about and I’m planning to order myself a finished copy for my forever shelves.
I won a proof copy of this from the lovely Jo over at Books and Lovely Things on Twitter and which was kindly sent to me by the amazing Alison Barrow.
About the author
Marianne Cronin was born in 1990. She studied English and Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Birmingham. She now spends most of her time writing, with her newly adopted rescue cat sleeping under her desk. When she’s not writing, Marianne can be found performing improv in the West Midlands, where she lives.
Her debut novel The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is to be published in twenty-five territories and film rights have been acquired by Sony Pictures with Barry Josephson attached to produce.