Meeting the English and Heartbreak Hotel – very British and very funny

Having just finished reading Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy I thought that I had better add a quick post before it is returned to the ever patient local library. That’s the one across the road which tracks down obscure new books for me. There is also a large festival marquee going up in our back garden. When I look back through my posts they seem to refer a lot to this festival. This year it’s only on for four days rather than eight, but still the preparations go on. Keep an eye on http://www.pontelandstmary.co.uk  for more details and eventually photos!

Back to the book. Meeting the English is set in London in 1989. Great events are going on around the world, but in a substantial house in London life has descended into farce. A famous author, Phillip Prys, has had a stroke. This has left him totally dependent on his “family”, including two wives, children, agent and most significantly, a young man from a depressed town in Scotland. Despite the tragedy of the author’s stroke, which is never underplayed, the other characters battle their urges to develop houses, eat, produce art, form relationships and generally live in a fast changing world. In the midst of it Struan Robertson, sympathetic but bewildered by London life, clothes and money, falls in love and learns so much about life. In the background countries change government, fashions are mangled by various female characters, and the summer seems to get hotter. This is (for some of us at least) modern history. Yes, there is sadness and learning to live, but there is also a lot of painful humour and Potnoodles. I thought it was a good read, with some vivid and real characters. The ending is a little melodramatic but fits with the novel. Well worth a read.

I discovered that book from http://www.cornflowerbooks.co.uk a very interesting  blog. I came by a copy of Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach when I was offered a choice of books to review. To which the answer was, yes please!! I really enjoyed this book. A resting/retired actor inherits a B&B in Wales, and decides to move in as he is very fed up of of trying to park in central London. He too has several ex wives and children, but none seem to bear him any ill will and indeed help him to set up his new enterprise which includes courses in cooking and car maintenance for the newly separated. It is episodic, and lots of coincidences and romance are found in unpromising circumstances. It is a lovely picture of life in an unlovely Welsh town, with humour, hypochondria and memorable characters. Unlike Marigold hotel, this would not immediately work as a film, but would make a great tv series. It isn’t great literature, but an enjoyable read without the overtones of being either lightweight or worthy. I could have been more detailed in reviewing but this book joined eleven others I sent to the sweltering capital for Daughter to read. Something about having finished her first year of medical school and wanting some non scientific reading…Enjoy them all, Pops!

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