This charming and entertaining story is full of memorable characters of all age groups, somewhat of a rarity in fiction today.
The book begins with the escape of Agnes, age 75, from her window in The Harmony Home for the Young at Heart where she has been installed by her son Jack and new girlfriend Monica. She leaves because she is bound and determined to check on her grandchildren, who have been cut off from her by Jack’s ex-wife Lucy. Besides, she’s not quite ready to pack it all in! Agnes’s adventures (she doesn’t have a car and needs to hitchhike), and the people she collects along the way, make up the rest of the story.
And what a hilarious group of people these are. The following dialogue is an example of the comic outcome when members of this very motley crew of companions communicate with one another. In this passage, the young student Gazza has been asked by the much older Felix, another of Agnes’s acquisitions, not to curse so much. Felix has just read a letter from a girlfriend to Gazza and Agnes:
Agnes could not trust herself to utter a word, and was relieved when the spell was broken by Gazza as he gave a delighted laugh and exclaimed loudly, ‘Jeezuz fucking Christ, Felix!’ then clapped his hand to his mouth, muttering, ‘Oh fuck! Swearing again! What I mean is, bloody hell, Felix. What you playing at, man? Catch me hanging around if I got a letter like that! I’d be away on the next plane out of here, no messing.’”
The emotions displayed by Coleman’s characters seem so right and true. At one point, in the midst of a drunken tête-à-tête, Felix has just told Gazza how his wife and son died in a plane crash, and Gazza reacts:
’Jeezuz fucking Christ. You poor bastard,’ sobbed Gazza. ‘What a miserable sodding world this is. It’s a wonder you didn’t top yourself.’ Felix was silent for a while. … This young man’s sympathy touched him, but in a strange way it also provoked irritation. No one else had the right to shed tears for Sylvia and Philip.”
I could go on and on about the characters: Monica, Jack’s manipulative, gold-digging girlfriend; the wonderfully realistic portrait of Monica’s two teenage girls; Jack, who can’t decide who he is or what he wants; the woefully incompetent police officer who tries to find Agnes; and of course Agnes, the heroine of the piece, who inspires everyone with her fearless approach to life.
Evaluation: At last, a book that lives up to its blurb: “Delightful, enormous fun and surprisingly original.” It truly is all that. Don’t let the unfortunately boring cover dissuade you from the charms of this book. In fact, when I finished, I went online and proceeded to order 3 more, to give to friends. Highly recommended! Rating: 4.5/5
You can check out the author’s blog here.