Eleanor is trying to destroy some old papers when the alm0st-blind 92 year old sets her living room alight. Fortunately a neighbour puts the fire out and Eleanor’s only left with some damage to her pride and singed eyebrows.
After years of trying to persuade their mother to move, this latest incident gives Eleanor’s well-meaning children the fodder they need and they issue an ultimatum: she must move into a home or live with one of them.
Determined NOT to be a burden to her offspring Eleanor agrees to move into a nursing home but not after her next birthday – giving her time to sort through her books and paperwork and pack the house up properly.
Refusing to allow her family to be involved in the pre-move cleanse they recruit an outsider. Eleanor’s grandson recommends Peter – feeling slightly guilty for having ‘stolen’ his girlfriend months before. As Peter’s ‘in between’ things he jumps at the chance and moves into the old house with Eleanor.
*I should mention I read so much crime fiction I was sure the book would move into serial killer / bodies in the basement territory at this point. Fortunately it didn’t. It remained true to its ‘literature’ genre!*
With the deadline of Eleanor’s birthday Peter stars to help her to help sort through her books, photographs and papers.
He finds himself enchanted by the old woman – as she is now and as she was decades before.
As old photographs and letters are unearthed Eleanor shares with Peter her early years: the idealisation of the father she never met who died during the war; her work as a teacher; the romance with husband-to-be; and everything in-between.
Eleanor tells Peter stories she’s never told anyone; sharing long-hidden family secrets.
I really enjoyed this novel by Nicci Gerrard (one half of the Nicci French writing team – and I wonder if she hates that reference!!!). Eleanor and Peter are eminently loveable. We don’t actually learn a lot about Peter’s life – but get a real insight into his character through his discussions with Eleanor, the effect she has on him and the care he takes with her belongings AND her feelings.
I’ve read a few novels recently featuring older people (Lost & Found and Elizabeth is Missing) and I noted a review in which someone was a tad disgruntled at the way older people were portrayed. You certainly couldn’t say that about The Twilight Hour. It’s beautifully written and Eleanor is an absolute delight and – importantly – able to laugh at herself.
My only criticism of this novel is that the conclusion was a bit of an anticlimax. I’d imagined a different ending – this sort of petered (!!!) out with minimal fuss, staggering over the finish line.
But – nonetheless – it’s a lovely book about family, relationships and self-discovery.
The Twilight Hour by Nicci Gerrard, published by Penguin Books will be released on 23 October 2014.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley for review purposes.