At 'The Hollyhocks' old people's home, the inhabitants are 'waiting for the scythe'. But while they are waiting...Lady Celia is running a blackmailing business on the side, Mr Cross keeps a tally of fellow residents' deaths on the back of his wardrobe, and then there is the rabid old Scots nationalist, and Mrs Green, a woman with a mysterious past. Hardly surprising in this environment that Mrs Bellamy decides she can't take any more and slits her throat. When Matron hushes it up because it would be bad for business, Lady Celia sees an opportunity to expand her blackmailing operation. Meanwhile two new incomers disturb the life of the home further; Mrs Feinberg, a sprightly Jewish woman of whom the other residents are immediately suspicious, and the elegant Mr Rufus. Hidden pasts, unusual sexual preferences and wickedly dark humour are mixed to delicious effect in Bernice Rubens' wonderful new novel.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 256 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
- Publication Date: 01/09/1998
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780349109022
Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.
Review by johnkeyes
How this book won a booker prize is beyond me. Repetitive happenings, uninteresting characters, little emotion, and it generalizes old people as horrible and petty.
Review by eleanor_eader
This is my favourite of Rubens' novels; it's witty, sly and seems a little slow to get moving (while things are actually happening just under the surface) - like the best residential home residents! The characters are, for the most part, quite horrible when taken at face value - but Rubens excels in finding the redeemable and ever likeable in each of her characters... and if we don't like them, we can often at least <i>sympathise</i> with them.What struck me as most unusual about this book is how rare it is to see our elderly stripped of romantic notions in literature... their pettiness, secrecy and occasional nobility are a startling facet of the story, even before the seemingly trivial string of events start to coalesce into an observable plot.
Review by arubabookwoman
This is the first book by Bernice Rubens I've read, and it's also a "genre" I've been interested in lately--life in an old folks' home.This book is full of wickedly funny characters. Lady Celia keeps herself in style by running a thriving blackmail business on the side. Mr. Cross keeps a running tally of deaths as they occur, and revels each time someone dies before him. The residents all have hidden pasts and current eccentricities. Even the matron has some secrets. This was a fun read, and I'll be looking for more books by Rubens.