All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Single Ladies Of Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell

on October 10, 2018

The Single Ladies Of Jacaranda Retirement Village
Joanna Nell
Hachette AUS
2018, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

It’s never too late to grow old disgracefully…

The life of 79-year-old pensioner Peggy Smart is as beige as the décor in her retirement village. Her week revolves around aqua aerobics and appointments with her doctor. The highlight of Peggy’s day is watching her neighbour Brian head out for his morning swim.

Peggy dreams of inviting the handsome widower – treasurer of the Residents’ Committee and one of the few eligible men in the village – to an intimate dinner. But why would an educated man like Brian, a chartered accountant no less, look twice at Peggy? As a woman of a certain age, she fears she has become invisible, even to men in their eighties.

But a chance encounter with an old school friend she hasn’t seen in five decades – the glamorous fashionista Angie Valentine – sets Peggy on an unexpected journey of self-discovery. Can she channel her ‘inner Helen Mirren’ and find love and friendship in her twilight years?

This is probably not something I’d have chosen to pick up without receiving it for review. Peggy is around my grandmother’s age, both are 80-odd. One actually lives in a retirement village that sounds quite similar to the one Peggy lives in, the other still lives in the home she and my grandfather retired in, although she’s on her own now. My parents face challenges with both their mothers – my dad’s mother, the one in the retirement village is coming to a time where she’s no longer able to live independently. She’s forgetting if she’s eaten, she’s forgetting to take her medication, she doesn’t turn the gas off when she’s finished. Dad has to make that call that she’s going to need more assistance to keep her health. And my mother is at the stage where she devotes several days a week to my grandmother’s needs and care that enable her to continue to live in her own home. Both my parents are actively involved in the lives of their mothers, from taking them shopping or to doctor’s appointments or just spending scheduled time with them each week. I live interstate now but whenever I visit, I make sure to spend decent time with both, ensuring that my kids are part of their worlds.

That seems to be something that’s quite missing from Peggy’s world. Her children are both grown with their own lives – at one stage Peggy was minding her grandchildren so that her daughter-in-law could return to work but it seemed to escalate to the point where it was too much for her. When she mentioned that she might like to cut back a bit, it was withdrawn completely and now it seems that Peggy operates her life a bit on the outer from her children, who swoop in to check on her level of senility and attempt to make decisions for her without actually listening to or observing her in her environment. I understand from what my dad is going through that it’s actually quite hard to have to make that call and he’s doing it with the discussion and input from my grandmother.

Peggy is a widow, still missing the companionship and presence of her husband but she’s not dead yet so her eye has landed on Brian, a handsome and pleasant widower who also resides in the retirement village. It seems that Brian is a bit of a hot commodity and Peggy doesn’t rate her chances. She sees herself as unglamorous and frumpy and when Angie Valentine, a childhood friend of Peggy’s arrives looking incredibly well preserved and confident, Peggy is even more downhearted. Angie seems determined to rekindle their friendship and takes it upon herself to also give Peggy a makeover, teaching her how to dress for her shape. On one hand, I quite liked the dynamic between Peggy and Angie. They were very different and had lived very different lives – Peggy having been married to pretty much her only boyfriend for over 50 years and Angie having been married four times. Angie does encourage Peggy to get out there, to do a bit more, enjoy life a bit more as well. Which is good, because although she has her medical issues (doesn’t everyone who gets to 80?) Peggy is still remarkably healthy and capable of living a fulfilling life, something that her children definitely need to realise.

However, and this is kind of a big thing, the way the story actually went with Angie……I didn’t like it. It wasn’t for me. I thought it was just a bit…..cruel, actually, that Angie would come back for that particular reason and there was also a bit of a cop out with one of the main characters involved no longer around and not able to give their side of the story. Also Peggy took the entire thing remarkably well pretty much immediately which didn’t really wash so much with me. I guess when you’re 80 there’s no point holding a grudge but honestly, a bit more internal debate probably would’ve been a bit more realistic, for me anyway. I just really didn’t enjoy this whole portion of the book and it seemed a bit out of step with the rest of it. It also seemed a long time to be revealed and is all dealt with quite swiftly, which threw off the pacing a bit for me.

Overall I did enjoy most of this book but I didn’t fall in love with it. It was quite sweet and I appreciated the insight into an older protagonist and the challenges they face with maintaining independent life and their health. But I can’t ignore that I didn’t like the second part of the book.


Book #170 of 2018



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