The Carer – Deborah Moggach

James, a once-eminent professor, is getting on a bit and needs full-time help. So Phoebe and Robert, his distracted middle-aged offspring, employ silver-legging-wearer Mandy, a veritable treasure, who seems happy to relieve them of their responsibilities. 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. Is this really their father, the distant figure who never once turned up for a sports day, now happily chortling over cuckoo clocks and television soaps?

Then something happens that throws everything into new relief, and Phoebe and Robert discover that life most definitely does not stop for the elderly. It just moves onto a very different plane – changing all the stories they thought they knew so well.

I sat down to this book with a cup of tea and an instinctive good feeling about it – there was something so welcoming about the intriguing plot and charming cover. Within a couple of pages I found myself laughing out loud – Mandy, with her orange teapot and Marigold gloves burst off the pages just as suddenly as she’d entered the lives of James and his children Phoebe and Robert. There really are some hilarious moments in this novel – from James shocking his somewhat uptight son by mixing up some martinis in the middle of the day, to Mandy’s no-nonsense ‘speak it as I find’ attitude.

As the mystery surrounding of Mandy’s arrival and the sudden change in James grows, we are drawn into what becomes a highly readable and intriguing narrative. One by one, small, strange things begin to happen, and keep you guessing as you turn the pages. I kept thinking that this humorous and almost detective-like plot would make for an excellent film or TV series!

Moggach’s characters are so believable and created with such ability and care. We are shown all sides of them – their fears, flaws, desires – to a point where we almost come to know the characters better than they know themselves. We follow them through various situations and locations as they try to find their way: from small towns in the Cotswolds and Wales to stylish parties in London; from caravans to fancy, expensive houses.

For me this is very much a novel about acceptance. We can spend so much time aspiring to different versions of our lives – but sometimes you just need to give yourself a break, take a look at what you’ve got and put your feet up with a biscuit and a cup of tea (and a good book).

The Carer will be published on 11th July 2019, by Tinder Press.

Thanks to Publicity Books and Tinder Press for the review copy.

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