Tuesday, 9 July 2019

The Carer - Deborah Moggach

Deborah Moggach has an impressive back catalogue but this is only the third book of hers that I have read. I enjoyed it immensely, You’ve heard of a ‘people person’? Well, this is a ‘people book’.  For people. Of people. About people.

There is an unexpected and magnificent twist just over half way through the book which is a masterstroke if you didn’t see it coming.And I didn’t see it coming! Although all the clues were there. 

Moggach demonstrates an understanding of people from all backgrounds and walks of life, all stages of life. Of the loneliness of old age one of her characters acutely observes,’It’s one of those things, like flatulence and phlegm, they don’t warn you about.’

So what’s The Carer all about? Two siblings, Robert and Phoebe, engage the services of highly recommended carer, Mandy, to look after their ageing father, James. She appears to be the very antithesis of the two of them in terms of background and aspirations. Yet she quickly renders herself indispensable to James who seems to find her company and ministrations uplifting. So much so that it seems as if Phoebe and Robert have been superseded in his affections.

The story is told from the perspectives, primarily, of Robert and Phoebe in the first part of the book and in the second it opens up to include James and a couple of other people including an epistolary reveal. But more than that I’m reluctant to say for fear of spoilers. Except that we never actually hear Mandy, the carer’s, perspective which is an interesting device and leaves you wondering. Everything we learn of Mandy is through others and we have to trust to the accuracy of their perceptions and opinions, good and bad. But it’s all done so plausibly and its all so convincing. You can get under the skin of the characters. It isn’t what I would call a humorous work but there are some instances that elicited a wry smile from me. The narrative has an even, pleasing flow and demonstrates the experience of this much acclaimed author. 

Moggach gets to the heart of peoples’ motivations and suspicions, fuelled by self doubt and perceived inadequacies that must touch upon the sensibility, I should imagine, of most of us. It's topical too as in this current age of living longer the care of elderly parents is a pertinent issue for many.

Whilst there are some very sad moments in the book it is ultimately a book of redemption and upliftment. Robert and Phoebe learn a great deal about themselves and both find themselves better placed at the end of the novel then they did at the beginning. I hope that isn’t a spoiler. 

It’s a fiction but it’s also broad enough to pose some questions and considerations for its readers. There are some nice little observations, for example:-

‘There was no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.’

Isn't that perfect?!

It’s a substantial yet comfortable read despite the serious implications of its theme and will delight the legions of Deborah Moggach fans out there and probably gain her some new ones!

My thanks to Georgina Moore and Tinder Press for an advance proof of this thoughtful tale. 

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