Source: ARC copy via the publisher
When I’d finished this book this morning the often quoted line from an Alfred Tennyson poem sprung to mind
‘T’is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all’
Billy Binns has loved and lost. At 117 and the oldest man in Europe he has loved and lost a lot throughout his lengthy life. And he most certainly has lived.
Now living in a care home ‘The Cedars’, Billy is attempting to write his memoirs for his son on an old borrowed typewriter. Billy has a lot to remember and at times his recollections of events make him doubt his own memory at times. Some are crystal clear and others are fragments dulled by age. Sometimes he doubts himself and at other times he remembers things with a disturbing clarity. Not always stuff he’d like to remember or be remembered for.
Throughout Billy’s story, the narrative takes him back to his past and then the present day to the elderly residents home. He’s losing friends, other residents he’s connected with who suddenly pass away, sometimes in the night.
Billy’s memories take him through two world wars and important events of the 20th Century. The mistakes he’s made and errors of judgement seem to haunt him and he has many regrets. The wisdom of age hasn’t come cheaply and neither has it been gained through winsome nostalgia. It’s been a hard life
I enjoyed all the snippets of history and the characters who appeared in Billy’s memory, some of them only briefly and some I wouldn’t have liked to have met in my own life time. I liked the way the seasons were marked in Billy’s life by what’s out or in bloom at the time and his observances of nature.
Funny what stays with you in your mind. Random moments. Tiny fragments of memories, which is all we’re left with I suppose
I enjoyed reading this and thought it was a beautifully written, observant and poignant book.
It’s a debut novel and I’ll look forward to reading more from this author
About the Author