This week I’ve been reading the new best-seller Thursdays in the Park, so we’re talking age, not era I’m afraid. But as I’m zooming towards the decade in question, it seems like something to think about. Is the older generation neglected by fiction writers, and has this one done them (us!) justice?
Interestingly, the oldies are already making a bit of a comeback on the screen. Just last year we had Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a feel-good film which didn’t ignore the problems of old age (money, health, loneliness) but gave us all hope for a happy ending (or if it’s not happy it just isn’t the end). Now we have Last Tango in Halifax, where an elderly-looking Derek Jacobi and the more sprightly Ann Reid (who famously went from Dinner Ladies to landing Daniel Craig) are giving each other more than companionship, or as mother says to daughter ‘I’m talking about sex, you know’. Actually I don’t see this piece as a romance because the couple fall for each other in episode one and there’s no sense that anything is going to keep them apart. It’s more of a family drama, as the interest is in the fall-out for their respective off-spring who provide plenty of sturm und drang.
So there’s a love story in there but not a romance and maybe that’s the rub. There are plenty of books about getting older, most of which take account of emotional and sexual needs – what about Love in the time of Cholera, or even Miss Garnett’s Angel, Old Filth, and I’m sure many of Joanna Trollope’s characters have been fifty. But maybe genre fiction is another matter. Is there a gap in the market, and does this book satisfy it?
Thursdays in the Park does tick the romantic boxes: – there’s dashing hero and a heroine whose family commitments keep her away from him. Jeannie’s career-minded daughter and her sly husband provide plenty of plot fodder while her devotion to her granddaughter is touching and realistic. If I had a problem it was with her husband George, a troubled and troubling character I never quite got the hang of and maybe also a tweeness in the unashamedly middle-class settings and concerns. (Whatever troubles there are, money isn’t one of them!) Still, despite a halting start (and ten-year hiatus) and a bolt from the blue in terms of George’s personal history, this kept me interested until the sugar-rush ending hove into view.
Faint praise? I suspect the problem is me. I don’t often read chick-lit, so I’m probably not the target market for gran-lit either. And did I mention the bedroom scenes? Well in general they were avoided or shall we say glossed over. Which for many people is probably fine. But like Celia in Last Tango, I prefer things a little less coy. So I’m fine with the concept of grannihood (should the need arise!) but I don’t think I’m going to be a devotee of gran-lit, unles it gets a bit more gutsy than this one.