Staying On by C.M Taylor – life in the sun is not always idyllic

Topical, novel and full of humanity, this is a novel which really conveys what family crisis feels like, with a lot of humour thrown in for balance. Life in a foreign land with the oncoming confusion of Brexit is made understandable as real people struggle with a compulsion to return home, but also the fear of the unknown. Memories, blame and grief all compete for attention with the longing for truth, but this is not a sad book, a fact guaranteed by the presence of a small boy with an unerring instinct for repeating swear words. Too much alcohol, too much sun but also a lot of good humour make this a memorable and enjoyable novel, with a warmth which goes beyond the weather.

Tony is a man who is having a late life crisis, as he is too old for a mid – life one. He owns a bar in a Spanish town where the sun is guaranteed, but sadly customers are not for most of the time. Several facts contribute to this, not least the stream of British expats disappearing home as the threat of Brexit looms. Friends who made the experience of living far from Yorkshire acceptable to Tony in the face of his homesickness are no longer sharing alcoholic in jokes and strange customs, and he is left to do everything as his wife Laney is not engaged. She is strangely distant for reasons that will only become obvious much later, and meanwhile Tony makes every effort to keep the parlous state of their finances to himself and his difficult accountant. He has his friends, but they do not understand that he needs more as he longs to go back to Yorkshire, or at least Britain where his son Nick is married to Jo. He has met his grandson, Fred, on several visits, but Laney has stoutly refused to get on the plane. As yet another couple of friends depart, Tony is thrown back on the company of Pepe, owner of a rival, successful, bar, who has his own agenda. Out of the blue, Jo announces that she is to visit, with Nick and Fred, and she proceeds to upset everything as part of her own progress. As Laney is even more retcient, Tony has more drama to cope with and Fred provides a running commentary, can anything be salvaged?

This book represents far more than another romantic comedy with its razor sharp humour and touching, human aspects. It is confidently written and well plotted, as old wounds are exposed while every effort is made to help. I loved its blend of grumpy old man with quite understandable longing for home and resolution. There may be times when it stretches credibility a little, but this book holds on well to the realistic chaos of life when emotions are tested. Every character is so well drawn, and the cast of people is well realised and controlled. My favourite characters, Tony and Jo, both have their own agendas, yet also have realistic self – doubt as things progress. This book is to be recommended for its incisive wit and realism, and its subtle realisation that life in the sun is not always simple.

So I am still working my way through the books that I want to review before Christmas, wondering about Christmas cards, planning a book group and picking up a few presents. I also have to arrange a study day, sing in a concert and several services, eat a lunch or two and ‘do’ a Book Group. So no problems here….