Tuesday, 21 July 2020

All the Lonely People - Mike Gayle

About the book… 

All the Lonely People is by turns a funny and life-affirming meditation on love, race, old age and friendship that will not only charm and uplift, but also remind readers of the power of ordinary people to make an extraordinary difference. Written with Mike’s trademark charm, humour and approachability, All the Lonely People is an intergenerational story of loneliness, friendship and hope, seen through the moving life story of one Windrush-generation elderly man, Hubert Bird.

In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widower Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship and fulfilment.

But Hubert Bird is lying.

The truth is day after day drags by without him seeing a single soul.

Until, that is, he receives some good news - good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever, news that will force him out again, into a world he has long since turned his back on.

Now Hubert faces a seemingly impossible task: to make his real life resemble his fake life before the truth comes out.
Along the way Hubert stumbles across a second chance at love, renews a cherished friendship and finds himself roped into an audacious community scheme that seeks to end loneliness once and for all . . .

Life is certainly beginning to happen to Hubert Bird. But with the origin of his earlier isolation always lurking in the shadows will he ever get to live the life he's pretended to have for so long?

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About the author… 
Mike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham. After graduating from Salford University with a degree in Sociology Mike moved to London with ambitions of becoming a music journalist. ... To date Mike is the author of twelve novels including Mr Commitment, Turning Thirty and Wish You Were Here.

Contact Links: 
Twitter: @mikegayle

My thoughts…
Huge thanks to Jenny Platt at Hodder for introducing me to Hubert Bird.  What an absolutely inspiring character, I couldn’t help but be drawn to him.  He is, on the surface at least, a stereotypical, set in his ways old man but underneath his carapace  is a multi-faceted person who had ‘done good’ despite the challenges that life had through at him.

The story ebbs and flows between Hubert as he is now a widowed, 84 year old, living alone, counting the time until his next phone call from his daughter who’d emigrated to Australia and then back to 1958 when Hubert first arrived in the UK from Jamaica after following his best pal Gus, sold on the idea of a better life.  The reality wasn’t quite the picture that he’d expected, it seemed he had swapped one form of hardship for another and a better life was hard fought.  The West Indian migrants weren’t welcomed by everyone and resentment was high, ignorance gave white, English people the upper hand.

Mike Gayle spins two era’s seamlessly together bringing Hubert to life as we get to know who he is and who he has become.  This is a special book, that pulled at the heart strings - it’s all about family - doing the best for your family and never letting them know you are suffering.  Hubert doesn’t believe in ‘warts and all’ he’s spun a story so vivid to his daughter, he can’t keep up, he struggles to remember what tales he’s told and all because he doesn’t want to be a burden, doesn’t want her to know the hardships he’s suffered or the lonely existence he’s living.

Then she tells him she’s coming home for a visit.  The pace of the book picks up as we walk side by side with Hubert as he tries to construct the lies he’s told into reality before Rose finds out how he’s really living.  Mike Gayle carefully constructed Hubert and it was humbling to watch the real person emerge as the years and layers of thick skin are removed bit by bit until the past meets the present and Hubert can just be, this truly is a poignant read that is very sad in places and difficult to read - loneliness comes in various forms and so does love, family and friendship but only to the degree we allow ourselves.

Hubert’s journey was immense and an absolute pleasure to travel with him.   His story will stay with me for a long time and All the Lonely People is a book that needs more than one reading, a book that should be read slowly to absorb the words and reflect.  To understand why some characters are who they are, life and what it throws at us moulds us as much as the parents and family we come from.  I loved this book, I know it’s one that I will be recommending to everyone. It’s fiction at its best, so much truth wrapped up in the words, if you can imagine it, you believe it and Mike Gayle writes like he’s painting a picture.

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Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Weddding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe - Annette Hannah

Author: Annette Hannah
Published By: Orion Dash

Publication Day: 6th July 2020

About the book… 
When single mum Lucy Woods moves to Railway Cottage to be near her grandad, the last person she wants to bump into is her childhood crush and best friend’s brother Dom. Whilst he is as arrogant as ever, he has grown up into an absolutely drop dead gorgeous hunk. Dominic Cavendish is a bitter divorce lawyer who doesn’t believe in Happy Ever Afters but when his Gran meets Lucy’s Grandad in the nursing home, hilarity ensues, and the sparks begin to fly.

About the author… 
Annette Hannah is a Liver Bird who relocated to leafy Hertfordshire in the 80’s and now lives near a river with her husband, two of their three grown up children and a crazy black cocker spaniel. She writes Romantic comedies in settings inspired by the beautiful countryside around her and always with a nod to her hometown. As an avid reader she became a book blogger and eventually realised her dream to become an author in 2020.

She loves long walks along the river, travelling to far flung places, the odd glass of Pinot Blush and spending time with her friends and family.

Contact Links: 
Twitter: @annettehannah

My thoughts…
Oh my!  Where do I start?  When I heard Annette Hannah had written a book and was asked to be part of the cover reveal for it I couldn’t wait to read it, the cover is just gorgeous.  Oh boy and when I did read it it was good - everything I hoped for and more.

The story centres around Lucy a single parent to an adorable son Jackson.  They have gone to stay in her grandads cottage - Railway Cottage to be close to him whilst he recuperated from an illness.  It kills two birds with one stone and has come at just the right time for Lucy who is looking for a fresh start, she’s bit the bullet and is setting up a new venture as a Wedding Planner. Stepping into her grandads cottage is like shrugging on a cozy coat for Lucy - it rekindles all of the happy times spent there as a child visiting both her grandparents.  She also feels a semblance of guilt because she hasn’t visited as often as she should have since her gran passed her way and since she had Jackson to care for.

Wedding Bells at the Signal Box Cafe is an absolutely delightful read.  Annette has created characters that are diverse, colourful and totally believable.  The adventures that Jackson and Baxter the family dog go on are nothing compared to the antics that Lucy’s granddad gets up to with Violet another resident in the home where Douglas Lucy’s grandad is staying.  She is also the grandmother as it happens of Lucy’s childhood crush Dom, brother of her childhood best friend Abbie.

The story flips back and forth between the various characters as Lucy finds her feet and decides to also set up in business with her grandad to renovate the old Railway Signal Box that is no longer used but, owned by her Grandad - he was the signalman when Lucy was young and it’s a place of happy memories for them both.

This book has it all it has there’s lots of hearts and flowers and romance as you’d expect but there’s also serious aspects to the story that are tempered by total hilarity.  It was a dream reading this and brought back so many memories of my childhood too.  I travelled on a train from the village where I lived with a few other children to another town every school day and on the way home if we managed to get on the platform early enough before our train was due the signalman would let us into the signal box to help pull the levers for the train going the other way.  Winters evenings eating scouse, which ironically I ate only last week - proper homely comfort food; just like this book -comforting, warm and totally delightful.  There was plenty going on and the descriptions are so vivid it wasn’t hard to imagine myself popping into the Signal Box cafe or strolling along the tow path.

Annette you’ve nailed it an amazingly wonderful read that I highly recommend - now when’s your second going to be published?

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