Publisher: Tinder Press
Publication Date: 24th January 2019
I was sent this book as a complete surprise and boy am I glad it landed through my letterbox.
Just to give some sense of time to this review, I’ve just read the book and it’s October 2018. I read the blurb and the first 2 or 3 pages as soon as it landed and I knew I just had to bump it straight to the top of my TBR.
When a book can grab you after a few short paragraphs then you know you’re on to a bloomin winner!
I have to get this out. I have to get it down before it’s gone for good. While it’s still clear in my head. While they’re all sat beside me, as alive now as they were then, these people I once loved
Billy Binns is the oldest resident in The Cedars, in fact he believes he’s probably the oldest man in Europe. Born in 1900 Billy was always as old as the century. However, as Billy feels his life gently ebbing away from him he wants so desperately to remember what love feels like.
He knows he has had 5 great loves in his life; Mary, Evie, Archie, Vera and Mrs Jackson, but he wants to revisit his feelings for them all and get it all down in writing in order to leave a little of himself behind. An explanation as to how these people and his love for each of them shaped him as a man.
I’ll admit that I initially thought that this book was going to be quite a fluffy, lighthearted yet emotive read, and that’s fine. In fact I’d been reading a lot of books with a dark twist and gravitated towards Billy as a bit of light relief.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book packed a gritty, emotional punch! Depictions of Billy’s time in battle in WW1 were particularly hard hitting, grim, gruesome and unflinching. I felt blindsided in the most spectacular way.
Told in the first person, Billy narrates his life story and slowly but surely introduces us, the reader to each of the five loves of his life. I say slowly, because he drifts in and out of lucidity. Often finding it hard to keep grasp of his rambling thoughts.
Interspersed with tales from everyday life at The Cedars care home, Billy takes us almost along with him as he re-imagines the various events in his life that brought him together with each of his loves. And boy oh boy what a life he has lead!
What I very much enjoyed about the character of Billy was the fact that although he is a lovely old man, he wasn’t always a person who did the right thing in his youth. Some of his ideals are very outdated and you have to keep this firmly in your mind when reading. He was of course a product of vastly different times and the author confronts this head on.
Each of Billy’s loves are wildly different in personality but each of them leap right off the page. Just as you get to love them, you have to leave them behind, much as Billy did.
Billy’s story is set against a backdrop of the ever changing social history of Britain. Both World Wars that he lived through and the changing social landscape of the country.
This story is heartwarming and heart rending. There is some lovely gentle humour but also lots of poignant sad moments. I feel honoured to have ‘met’ Billy and his loves and I urge you to aquaint yourself with him. You won’t regret it.
Thank you as always to the publisher for the ARC and to Caitlyn Raynor. It was a lovely and much appreciated surpise.
See you all soon.
Bookish Chat xx