For the love of books

For the love of books

What are you planning to read next?

We love books at Mature Times and consume as many as we can so we can pass on our recommendations for great books to keep you inspired and entertained.

We try and cover a wide range and pick out the best of the new publications coming up. The editorial team visits literary festivals around the country and interview authors who we think will interest you. We are often offered some copies to give away and you will find these offers on our competitions page.

This week we are highlighting two books that have inspired us recently.

soft in the headSoft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger

When I first started to read this book I must confess to being somewhat sceptical, fearing that it would be too whimsical for me. The first couple of chapters didn’t quite flow and I suspected it may turn out to be a somewhat disjointed novel. How wrong I was. This is a delightful read and quite possibly one of the most unashamedly heart-warming tales I have ever read. It is full of humour and poignancy and proves that you shouldn’t be too quick to judge a book.

The central character is Germain, a forty-something man who is used to being looked down upon and talked down to. A gentle giant with a kind heart. Spending his days tending his garden, whittling wood and counting pigeons in the park, Germain sees life a little differently from most of us. He is frequently the butt of the jokes of his comrades down at the local bar and even his own mother calls him a useless halfwit.

Germain has had a less than conventional upbringing and precious little schooling but just because he’s a little slow on the uptake doesn’t mean he’s stupid. His descriptions of the people in his life are naïvely astute and vividly show the complexity of the relationships he has with them; some mangled, some developing and some changing. Whilst he may be a slow thinker, he thinks deeply about life and relationships.

On one of his pigeon counting expeditions Germain has a chance encounter on a park bench with Margueritte, an octogenarian ex-scientist. During their subsequent meetings, Margueritte starts to tell Germain about her life. She always has a book with her and one day starts to read to him. This opens his eyes to a world of books and ideas – he suddenly decides that he likes books even if he’s never actually read one.

Apart from his girlfriend Annette, Margueritte is the only person who treats him as an equal. She has a confidence in him that no one else has ever had and soon she becomes a nurturing and calming presence in Germain’s life. Quite simply she is the mother and grandmother he’s never had – kind, patient, encouraging and quietly supportive. The drunks in the bar are confused –suddenly he knows stuff and is not afraid to say it. As time passes and Margueritte becomes frailer, Germain discovers how he can give something back to her.

This book shows how relationships can develop between people with completely different backgrounds but with a shared need and appreciation for respectful companionship. It is a tender and moving picture of an unexpected friendship that makes no demands but offers mutual affection.

A magical and heart-warming book that should be on everyone’s to-read list.

Available from Amazon at £6.99 in paperback or the Kindle edition is available for download at £3.47

Published by Pushkin Press


secret diaryThe Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 ¼ Years Old by Hendrik Groen

Whoever would have thought that a diary of an old man living in a Dutch care home would become an international bestseller. Not me, that is, until I started to read it!

The UK translation has been published by Michael Joseph after the rights have been sold in 26 territories and so from this August we can all share in Hendrik’s musings from his room in an institution for OAPs in Amsterdam.

Hendrik has no family of his own but has a best friend Evert who lives independently in sheltered accommodation and has a small dog called Mohammed. Evert likes a drink and a joke and he and Hendrik play tricks on the other residents which shows that men will always be boys.

There are some wonderful characters to get to know in this book and it gives hope that getting old does not sap the fun out of life. Some residents are cruel and vindictive and make it their mission to upset the others but it shows that life in a care home is the same as in any community but the problems of memory and mobility add to the confusion.

This is a “laugh out loud” book. I want to read bits out to anyone who is listening; I want to share the jokes and anecdotes. Really I want join The Old-but-not-dead-club who strive to enjoy their limited lives.

Hendrik proves that breaking the rules, falling in love and raging against slipping from life is not an option for him.

The diary mechanic can be an easy option for a writer but this is a sure fire hit for Hendrik. I understand that a sequel has been published in Holland so there is more mirth to be appreciated.
Long live Hendrik, he doesn’t plan to pop his clogs yet.
by Tina Foster

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 ¼ Years Old is published in hardback on 25th August 2016 by Michael Joseph RRP £12.99