I had never heard of this book before the Modern Library Book Club requested it. Although it is quite a small book, just under 200 pages, it delivers quite a punch.
We follow five elderly characters who live with each other. There is a lot of griping and jokes, but at the end of the day, each of them has to deal with the same issue – the facts of life and getting older.
The book started out funny, just like I thought it would. I have been around the elderly my whole life so I know that they love to joke around, but when we get the characters alone, we know that this is just a façade and each is dealing with their own issues.
There is Bernard who loves to play pranks on the others which is absolutely hilarious until the end when one of his jokes backfires. Bernard reminds me of the old grump who is nasty to everyone but deep inside he just wants the attention.
Shorty is the butler and ex-lover to Bernard. He is a drunk but tries to moderate his drinking. One of my favorite scenes is Shorty trying to pull himself up the stairs to his bedroom and his tottering at the top. It was just so vivid. He goes around the house singing ballads about the others, though whether they realize it is another story. Absolutely hilarious.
Marigold’s character is a bit sad as she is slowly losing her mind. Whether Alzheimer’s or dimentia, it is never determined, but Marigold tries to come to terms with it in the best way she knows how. She is also very opinionated and literal to the point that she doesn’t understand the jokes.
Then there is Vera who is the serious one of the lot and takes care of everyone and everything. Finally there is George who suffers from the after effects of a stroke and tries to write his book. Of everyone, George seems to be the most positive one.
Everyone at book club enjoyed this book, though for some, the plot of the story hit a little too close for comfort. Despite this, they thought Amis’ was a genius writer. Some thought he was a bit negative, which was irritating to them but they still enjoyed the book.
It is a short classic that has a lot to it and you will surely get something out of it every time you read it. Definitely worth the read.