Publisher: Tinder Press
Publication Date: 11th July 2019
When this book dropped unsolicited through the letterbox I was drawn by the title of The Carer but I have to be honest, not by the front cover. If I’d have seen this book on the shelf in the shop I think I would have passed it by, which would have been a real shame!
The title drew me in because I’ve found in recent years that I have a liking for books that focus on the relationship of a carer and a patient (patient is not always the correct term but I couldn’t think of an appropriate one…….client?……I don’t know, but you get the picture!). I plan to do a blog post about books I’ve enjoyed featuring this kind of relationship/dynamic, so keep your peepers peeled for that.
I think I made certain assumptions about this book which turned out to be unfounded. Nothing negative, just assumptions that I had before going in, having read the blurb.
I assumed that the story would be heavily constructed around the carer/patient relationship with this being the main focus, and whilst it is indeed an integral part of the first half of the story, it is by no means the central subject matter.
So whats it all about?
We have Phoebe and Robert struggling to look after their elderly father James. A wise old professor who is now sadly widowed and unable to look after himself adequately and safely. Phoebe and Robert have lives of their own and don’t live close enough to their father to be able to care for him, so they employ Mandy, a bubbly, charismatic whirlwind of a woman who swoops in and takes over their father’s care without batting an eyelid. She swiftly forms a close bond with James, taking him on outings, introducing him to daytime TV, having tea and cake and sharing little ‘in-jokes’ that Phoebe and Robert can only stand on the periphery and observe. They are both initially thrilled that Mandy is taking over the difficult task of their fathers care, however as they witness the growing bond between Mandy and James they start to become jealous. Both Phoebe and Robert feel that their father, now in later life, is giving his affection freely to this woman, when they struggled to elicit any interest or affection from him when they were children.
Add to this the fact that they both have seperate concerns over Mandy’s motives in being their father’s carer and the whole mix is muddied with suspicion. Could the bright and breezy Mandy have more sinister reasons for infiltrating the family?
This book has so many layers, so many subject matters to be debated. Each of the characters are flawed in their own way but absolutely fully rounded. They each have their own issues in life which are explored and excellently used as a backdrop for the main thread of the story. Phoebe is an unmarried 60 year old, having a relationship with a man who lives in the local woods, a bit of an aging hippy by the name of Torren. Their relationship is based mainly on sex and Phoebe is vaguely aware that Torren may be spreading his seed wider than he should be, but she chooses to ignore it in the hope that he will pick her as his main squeeze and actually bring their relationship out into the light of day.
Robert is married to an ambitious, successful newsreader. He lives a privileged life in the huge house with all the mod-cons but spends most of his time ensconced in his writing shed, trying to construct his novel. He used to work in a high flying job in the city but since being made redundant he has lost his way a little and is trying his hand, not very successfully at novel writing. His marriage is strained and he feels a little untethered, which isn’t helped by the concerns he has over his Father and Mandy.
The first part of this story is excellently constructed to build up a view of each of the characters. It also places various suspicions and doubts in your mind as a reader and I for one was unsure who to trust or who’s point of view to believe.
The second part changes focus completely and puts James’s earlier life under the spotlight. For me this was a brilliant change of pace and interest and I gobbled this section up. For the latter third we switch back to the present day and are back in the hands of Phoebe and Richard, making sense of their discoveries about their father and tying up some loose ends.
I have never read any of Deborah Moggach’s books before but she is the author of The First Exotic Marigold Hotel which I have heard lots of great things about. Her writing style is very easily accessible and flows beautifully. The switching of perspectives via alternating chapters helped the flow of the story and kept me invested and I always find this is a powerful writing tool to maintain momentum.
I think this would be a fantastic book club book, given all its multiple layers and subject matters. I will certainly be heading to more of Deborah Moggach’s work in the future.
Thank you as always to The publisher and Georgina Moore for my review copy.
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx