General/ Geriatric Fiction( Okay so I just made the last one up)
For some unfathomable reason 2016 has been the year of books about old folks and this delightful book , Casting On, based on a play written by the same author ( which incidentally received much critical acclaim) is another volume I am adding to my pile.
I cannot speak more highly of “Casting Off. At first glance it is a humorous tale set in a Scottish care home, but before very long we are examining some very emotive issues. The true beauty of this book is that each and every character is treated as a human being first before they are lumped in as OLD people which is of course exactly as it should be.
These home inhabitants are the result of very varied lives, some with some rather daring skeletons in their closets, so whilst there are the pre-requisite discussions in the communal lounge and “entertainments” proper for the setting, there are also the most subversive actions and bitter rivalries more akin to youngsters of a much more rebellious age. Soon though, fate brings real Young people into their spheres and experiences on both sides of the age spectrum are enriched!
The cost of remaining in the home becomes untenable for some of the residents, so a core group under the guise of a Knitting Circle begin to plot and plan how to make sure that the most financially vulnerable residents can remain in the rooms that are their own stability and sanctuary. Some of their plans are pretty out there!
Gradually deep and long held secrets come to the surface and each of their lives are shaped and coloured by the actions and reactions of the others to these revelations. Some find bravery never before tapped, some regain strength and vitality and others forge new friendships or renew familial connections whilst other move gently into the next chapter, be that the everlasting or to pastures not necessarily greener, but meaner.
The tone is warm and even the darker themes of the inevitability of death and the ravages of Dementia, closeted sexuality and even sexual drives and appetites in elder practitioners are dealt with deftly and with style and panache. Despite some of the residents being not the pleasantest of folks, they are never caricatures, they are real people and their daily machinations, rhythms and foibles elevate this story to a really joyful celebration of life, love in all it’s guises and yes even death too.
I found myself self consciously weeping in the final chapters and I can find no stronger recommendation than that, my soggy tissue and gentle sigh as I reached the final sentence is my version of a five star review, which this book definitely also deserves.