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Book Review – Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe

Evening bookies! (or morning/afternoon depending where and when you read this).

I’m back once again, mixing up my reading pile with more variety than a televised talent contest, this time it’s the turn of the 1970’s set, old people centric, nostalgia piece, otherwise entitled; Paradise Lodge.

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707I know what you’re thinking, don’t think that. Yes the narrator is a 15 year old girl, but no, this is not teen fiction. Although in my view more teen fiction needs a chain-smoking, potty mouth protagonst.

“This is the story of Lizzie Vogel, a 15 year old girl who finds herself working in an old people’s home in Leicestershire in the 1970s. The place is in chaos and it’s not really a suitable job for a schoolgirl: she’d only gone for the job because she wanted a new phase and it seemed too exhausting to commit to being a full-time girlfriend or a punk. Lizzie has some knowledge of old people (they’re not suited to granary bread, and you mustn’t compare them to toddlers) but she doesn’t know there’s a right way to get someone out of the bath, or what to do when someone dies.

When a rival old people’s home with better parking and daily chair-obics threatens to take all their patients, Paradise Lodge’s cast of staff and helpers, from the assertively shy Nurse who only communicates through little grunts to the son of the Chinese takeaway manager who’s renowned for his erotic handholding techniques, have to come together to save the home before it’s too late.”

Being under 40, I feel that I was not the intended target audience for this book. There are so many 70’s references that it reads more like a nostalgia piece or a diary than a piece of complete fiction, this works in many ways, you feel connected to the time zone, the characters feel more real and well rounded, they fit. The whole concept of getting a job at 15 and basically dropping out of school was completely alien to me, why wouldn’t you finish school if you’re a bright pupil? But in those days it happened and people dealt with it.

While the Paradise Lodge and it’s staff and patients were prominent, 3D characters, for some reason Lizzie’s family felt a little flat. Most of them were only mentioned in passing apart from the mother, whom we are told tricked her husband into having another baby at least once a chapter from the very start, got a tad repetitive. Maybe this is because the Lodge is where Lizzie feels more at home, but I felt that the book  was missing something because of it. Of the characters that are presented to us whole, non are nice people, they all have their own agendas and are mostly just bitches to each other all the time, which makes for interesting reading, but not for likable characters.

On the whole, the novel seems like a non-event. Like a snapshot of the past, easy to take out and look at, then put away again. The rivalry between the two care homes is more of a background to the lives of the people, as a character driven novel, it’s well presented and does a fairly good job of keeping you reading.  The 70s vibe is strong and I think people who actually lived through that decade would enjoy it more than I did. It’s a nice light read, with some genuinely humourous moments, a good one for the beach. 3 stars.

3/5 ***


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