Many thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. The decision to participate was my own and this review forms my honest opinion.
From the bestselling author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Tulip Fever, a deliciously funny, poignant and wry novel, full of surprising twists and turns:
James is getting on a bit and needs full-time help. So Phoebe and Robert, his middle-aged offspring, employ Mandy, who seems willing to take him off their hands. But as James regales his family with tales of Mandy’s virtues, their shopping trips and the shared pleasure of their journeys to garden centres, Phoebe and Robert sense something is amiss.
Then something extraordinary happens which throws everything into new relief, changing all the stories of their childhood – and the father – that they thought they knew so well.
Well, this book has taken me somewhat by surprise. I expected something rather different to what I got, and all for the better. I had – on face value – taken it to perhaps be something of a thriller type novel, perhaps dark and a little bit twisty but instead I got something was far more of an observational study on the behaviours and follies of the cast of characters.
At its heart is a theme of deception – the lies we tell each other, ourselves and most importantly our loved ones. I absolutely loved the observational side of this novel and found it so interesting to see the historic impact of untruths and the way in which narratives are formed to suit each individual and the way in which they wish to see their lives and the people within it.
The vast majority of the novel is seen through the eyes of Robert and Phoebe, siblings who have employed the services of a carer – Mandy – to look after their aging father. The family soon become reliant on her, and their father, James, bonds with Mandy, much to the surprise of his children and they soon begin to question her intentions. There is quite a commentary on class throughout, Phoebe and Robert coming from a privileged upbringing in stark contrast to Mandy. There is a sense of elevation from them and their suspicions are founded in a dislike of her views and that they quite clearly feel that she is beneath them. To them, she is purely an employee doing her job, and that she and their father stokes up jealousy and insecurities which lay just a scratch beneath the surface.
I’ve never read a Deborah Moggach novel before, however I have seen (although admittedly, I haven’t read the book) The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is a film I adored, simply because it focuses on the more mature generation. To my mind (as a thirty-six year old) there seems to be this rather sad belief that we have an expiry date. That beyond a certain age we should just be still. And why should that be the case? My 83 year old Grandma is one of my favourite people in the world; she continually surprises me with her observations, her wisdom and her ability to have a far more varied social life than my own! I often wonder if we pigeon hole older people and try to tuck them away because they represent what we fear the most – aging. And in the meantime we who are steadily moving towards maturity seek ways to grasp our youth seeking more extreme ways to maintain the visage of youth. I want to read more books like this. Ones that celebrate lives lived and explore the mistakes made. Ones that see value in age and don’t dismiss the person as an aging cliche or a stock character. This novel does a beautiful job of bridging the generational gap and creating a deeper understanding, removing the parental stereotype and revealing the people behind.
The Carer has been a surprising and enjoyable read. Easy to read, thought provoking and – whilst I wouldn’t class it as particularly humourous, at least in the laugh out loud sense, there is a certain wit laced throughout the narrative in terms of the observational side of life.
One of the most interesting and sophisticated books I’ve read this year. I will definitely be seeking out the author’s back catalogue!
About the Author
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 Thing, Heartbreak Hotel and Something to Hide. She lives in London.