Review: The Carer

Happy Thursday. & happy beginning of the Easter break. It's been a week hasn't it, this one? Everyone in my office has had some weird kind of not-quite-ill bt also not-quite-fine kind of lurgy so we've all been pretty miserable, and I've been at physio / the chamber of torture twice and generally it's just felt a tiny little bit gloomy. I'm so so ready for a long weekend you don't even know.

However, that's not why I'm here. I want to talk about The Carer which is the shiny new novel by Deborah Moggach, out this summer.

This book read itself. Clever book is clever.

By which I mean, it was so easy to read that it didn't feel like reading at all, and I just kept turning the pages until eventually I had to force myself to put in a bookmark and go to sleep. Not a page-turner in the traditional 'oh this story is so gripping and so exciting I must keep reading' sense of the word but a page-turner in that I honestly didn't realise how much I'd read because reading it was so easy and it felt so familiar and I got in bed at half past nine to read til ten and suddenly it was quarter past eleven and if that's not a mark of good writing then I don't know what is.

I had high expectations going in, I'm not going to lie; I mean, Deborah Moggach is the genius behind The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel so this book had to be good, right? (She also wrote, among others, Heartbreak Hotel and Changing Babies both of which I read in my late teens and early twenties and both of which I also loved, FYI.) It had to be funny and clever and subtle and full of characters that make your heart hurt, right?

Fear not pals, it absolutely is all of those things.

I loved it.

The story is that, primarily, of Robert and Phoebe - their Dad is rocking on a bit and struggling to fend for himself since their Mum died. They both have lives of their own - Robert, in the city, with a famous wife and two children and a novel to write, and Phoebe, in Wales,with a not-boyfriend in a cabin in the woods and art that isn't selling, so they employ Mandy, the carer of the title.

Mandy is wonderful and Robert and Phoebe love her - more importantly so does their Dad, suddenly finding joy in the simple things his particle physics loving former self never would - until, as it happens they feel like perhaps they don't love her all - their Dad seems to be slipping away, becoming old and unrecognisable before their eyes and Mandy 'says it as she finds it' (and we all know the truth hurts like toothache) and little things just don't seem to add up.
Something, it seems, is afoot.
Their mutual mistrust of Mandy brings the two of them closer than they've been in years but also causes old resentments to resurface, the likes of which you might expect them to have moved past by the age of 50 but hey apparently not and it's just this lovely, intelligent, warm look at families and sibling rivalry and aging and how all children - even the grown ups - still need to grow up (and still need their parents).

It didn't go where I thought it would actually which was most excellent, because about halfway through I was thinking all of these things and thought I had everybody  all figured out and was sort of sighing along, because oh Mandy, oh Robert, oh Phoebe, oh heck, but OH NO I WAS WRONG AND YOU SHOULD NOT ASSUME JOSEPHINE because the story is turned entirely on its head.

I liked that, though, because this is a character driven story rather than a plot driven one and yet Moggach still managed to make me gasp with her plot twist even though I thought I knew these characters so well already. Masterful, actually, is the word I'm going to throw around here and trust me when I say I don't do that casually. (Using words like masterful also makes me feel like a proper book reviewer so you know, there's that.)

I loved the structure, how the book was split into 4 parts, with a split narrative also. Always here for a split narrative as long as it doesn't lose itself (it doesn't) and I loved getting to explore Phoebe and Robert so thoroughly, getting to see how they tick and why they were the way they were.
There are time jumps also which mean we get to see Robert and Phoebe's Dad in his prime which is really important to the novel as a whole, and then, just when you think it an't get much better, a letter is uncovered and we all know how I feel about an epistolary story.

Basically, this book is just so well done. It's clever and sensitive and a really lovely look at familial expectation.

It's a gorgeous read, and if you've got a sibling, and parents, or indeed any experience of ageing and / or relationships then this book is for you.

It's out in July - I was lucky enough to be sent a proof for review - but you can preorder now and honestly, if you have a holiday planned for this summer (and even if you don't) then you totally should.