My thanks to Jenny Platt at Hodder & Stoughton for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. The decision to take part in my own and this review forms my honest opinion.
Hubert Bird is not alone in being alone.
He just needs to realise it.
In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship and fulfilment.
But Hubert Bird is lying.
The truth is day after day drags by without him seeing a single soul.
Until, that is, he receives some good news – good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever, news that will force him out again, into a world he has long since turned his back on.
Now Hubert faces a seemingly impossible task: to make his real life resemble his fake life before the truth comes out.
Along the way Hubert stumbles across a second chance at love, renews a cherished friendship and finds himself roped into an audacious community scheme that seeks to end loneliness once and for all . . .
Life is certainly beginning to happen to Hubert Bird. But with the origin of his earlier isolation always lurking in the shadows will he ever get to live the life he’s pretended to have for so long?
From bestselling author Mike Gayle, All the Lonely People is by turns a funny and moving meditation on love, race, old age and friendship that will not only charm and uplift, but also remind you of the power of ordinary people to make an extraordinary difference.
The hardest reviews to write are the books you love the most. Or at least, that’s what I find. And that’s how I’m feeling right now, sat with my laptop on my knee, cheeks still hot with tears and my Kindle still warm from the monster reading session I’ve just enjoyed with All The Lonely People.
Mike Gayle is an entirely new author to me, but when the blog tour invite dropped into my inbox, there was something about this book which drew me to it. I’m finding myself drawn to uplifting, people-centred novels at the moment, and this ticked all of my boxes.
Not wanting to rehash the blurb, the novel centres on Hubert Bird, an OAP living in Bromley who has cut himself off from life. Predominantly focused on his point of view, the narrative slides between the present day and chronological flashbacks, starting with his youth in Jamaica and his decision to emigrate to England.
And what a character Hubert Bird is!
Mike Gayle writes about Hubert with such sensitivity and authenticity that he came alive for me very early on. Initially aloof when approached by his new neighbour Ashleigh, a single mother to a young daughter, Layla, there’s a sadness which accompanies his character which even without the benefit of the flashbacks indicates that there is far more to his tale than his simply being a grumpy old man.
As Hubert begins to bloom into life once more, thanks to the perseverance of the wonderful Ashleigh, his entire character unfurls into someone quite unforgettable. From his family in Jamaica, his friendships, his frequent battles against racism in England, his marriage, his determination for a better life and experiences as a parent; Hubert is created with such warmth and love that I fell in love with him, swept along wherever he took me. All The Lonely People is such an incredibly beautiful book.
I adored the developing friendship between Hubert and Ashleigh. Two people of completely different generations with completely different life experiences bound together by loneliness. As the title suggests, it’s a recurring theme throughout, and one that is bound to resonate with many people, especially at the moment. It really gives pause for thought too. Loneliness isn’t exclusively reserved for old age. I know the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my life is as a new mother. Despite a dizzying calendar of social activities and being surrounded by people – I felt so removed.
It’s a story about life, and most importantly about people. About how we shape one another – often without even realising the impact we have on the lives of others; whether it be good or bad. Whether it be love, friendship, family or mere acquaintances, each of us have the power to affect the lives of others somehow. A sense of community is too often underrated, and yet the power a group of people can wield as a force for good, is quite remarkable – as is the case here.
All The Lonely People is a novel I will be thrusting upon my friends and family enthusiastically, and as soon as I’ve posted this review I shall be treating myself to another Mike Gayle novel. I don’t give stars – but if I did, this would get them all and then some.