Here comes another case of ‘I want to kill anyone and everyone working for the post services!!!!!’ I was due to post this review last Friday, but my proof copy didn’t make it home on time, so here are my thoughts, on this lovely Monday.
Author: Salley Vickers
Date of publication: 7 November 2019
Grandmothers is the story of three very different women and their relationship with the younger generation: fiercely independent Nan, who leads a secret life as an award-winning poet when she is not teaching her grandson Billy how to lie; glamorous Blanche, deprived of the company of her beloved granddaughter Kitty by her hostile daughter-in-law, who finds solace in rebelliously taking to drink and shop lifting; and shy, bookish Minna who in the safety of shepherd’s hut shares with her surrogate granddaughter Rose her passion for reading. The outlook of all three women subtly alters when through their encounters with each other they discover that the past is always with us and that we go on learning and changing until the very end.
Grandmothers is a beautifully observed, sometimes subversive, often tender and elegiac novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Librarian.
Was it sadness that made people kind – or was it that kind people were more liable to sadness?
When I heard about Salley Vickers’ novel Grandmothers, my heart ached. Since I was a little girl, I have always been close to my grandmother. I remember eating at my grandparents every day. I remember Wednesday trips to the mall. She used to go shopping for my meat and she made me believe foie gras was a simple pâté. I ate it for years without knowing it was not a habit for everyone!
I also remember my grandmother was not a fan of cuddles. She had a temper at times. She loved her grandchildren but wanted to keep her freedom. She was a creature of habit. She had my mother’s eyes and I write the way she used to.
Now she is safe and living in a closed home because her Alzheimer is stealing her away from us. But no illness can steal the fact she is my grandmother. I chose to read this novel for her. For us. For the woman she used to be.
Just like with parents, there is no manual about how to be grandparents. Wait, there probably is. But the truth is we are all different, and this works for grandmothers too.
Salley Vickers gives us the opportunity to meet three different women. A desperate mother dealing with difficult relationships with her son and her daughter-in-law, preventing her from enjoying time with her granddaughter. A very down-to-earth grandmother with what some people would call ‘peculiar views on life’ and her grandson Billy. A woman with no blood ties with a Rose but the strongest bond you can think of.
What do they have in common? Love for the future generation.
I am grateful this book reminded me grandmothers are human. They are wise, and special, and lucky are those who can count on such a woman to grow up next to. In a world of categories, boxes, and a false idea of freedom, we forget that we are not prisoners. We can take a step back and get a new perspective. We can see them for who they really are, and not just who we want them to be.
Grandmothers deals with loss and pain, but also joy and shared memories. Nan, Minna, and Blanche struggle, they fight, they lose, they win. They take risks, they rediscover themselves. I took a lot of pleasure simply holding their hand through the pages, feeling like a companion at times, a little kid sometimes, but always loved and reassured. When those three women’s lives intertwine, life reminds us the small things matter, and there is a reason for everything, whether we like it or not. Their differences helped me understand them better.
This novel is not a happy-ever-after with bad people being punished and grannies baking cakes. Salley Vickers tugs at the present to release the threads of the past. She explores the uniqueness of a life’s experience, what it brings, what it takes away, and how much is left to share with those we love the most.
I was sincerely moved by Grandmothers. Love is a constant, despite misunderstandings, despite differences in personality. I found it so beautiful to watch Nan, Minna, and Blanche looking after their grandkids, blood-related or not. The innocence of children meets the wisdom of years on Earth. Yet, who’s caring after whom?
Grandmothers is a sensible and relatable contemporary novel that explores how soulmates find each other. It is not reserved to lovers. The book is a beautiful ode to the love we receive, and the one we give.
My biggest thanks to Hannah and Viking Books for my copy of the novel. This is my unbiased opinion.