You have to admit… the cover of this book is rather splendid, isn’t it?
And so is the book.
Shimi and Beryl are both over ninety. She’s worried about losing her memory, ex English teacher proud of her vocabulary is trying to write a memoir of all the men in her life, while despairing over her two sons, MPs for opposing political parties, she embroiders morbid samplers and is scathing of her two carers. Shimi instead, remembers everything, even the things he’d rather forget, whiles he dodges prowling widows and bladder accidents.
They meet. They fall in love. And in the short time they have left the manage to find something to keep them going, something that can heal the wounds of the past.
BUT, before you make up your mind about the whole love story between old people just remember this… it is a funny book. And I don’t like funny books, but this is genius. It’s not ‘slip on a banana skin’ funny, it’s clever, subtle, tender funny. It is beautifully observed as only Howard Jacobson can, full of little details that make it real and poignant.
You’ll really grow fond of the two of them, you’ll lose yourself in the description of North London life, the streets, its people and it’ll stay with you long after you turn the last page.
The structure is a little bit complicated, with alternate chapter told by each the two character till the come together… stay with it. Personally I like books with a non linear time narrative but I know it’s not everyone cup of tea.
“the art of life is to make art of life”