Monday, 8 June 2020

Saving Missy, by Beth Morrey.

           It was a lovely surprise to find that a book with such a misleading title (I thought it was about the rescue of a beloved pet!) can utterly belie its appearance.  Lockdown at its various levels means boredom reigned supreme, so readers need Excitement!  Thrills!  Humour!  Pathos!  You know:  all of those things.
Ms Morrey’s debut novel contains all these prerequisites in generous quantities. How happy I am that I got past the cover, for main protagonist Missy is a force to be reckoned with, even though she never realises her power.
Millicent Carmichael is 79 years old.  She rattles around in a big suburban London house by herself;  her husband is gone and her son lives in Australia with her only grandchild.  Millicent has fought bitterly with her daughter, who wants her to sell up and get something much smaller in Cambridge so Melanie and her gay partner can ‘keep an eye on her’.  Oh, really?  Not bloody likely!  For Millicent has had a lifelong association with Cambridge;  she was a Classicist with a very good degree, but gave up her career to wed the love of her life, Leo Carmichael, soon to become an internationally famous historian.  Millicent and her children became acolytes to the Great Man, whether they wanted to or not, Worshippers of the Flame – but when the Flame goes out, what is left?
An aching and terrible loneliness, some of it her fault,(very hard to admit) – and the consolation of alcohol, which has always featured largely in her life, and is even more of a crutch now.
Until a chance meeting in the local park (what was left but to get out of the house and walk in the park?) with two very different women, Angela, a potty-mouthed Irish solo mum with a darling little son called Otis (the same age as Millicent’s beloved grandson) and Sylvie, a very resourceful, community-minded Interior Designer.  It doesn’t take very long before Millicent becomes Missy, her name of choice, and her world thanks to these women who make her feel so necessary, starts to expand – she even gets lumbered with a DOG!  Who’s not hers to keep, mind, only a loan while the owner goes through a rough patch – but when Missy starts dog-walking, she meets a whole new circle of friends.  Can life get any better?
No.  Tragedy strikes, as it always does, but thanks to her new-found loyal friends, Missy finds practical solutions to her previously insoluble problems.  Beth Morrey has triumphed:  all her characters are beautifully realised and utterly convincing, and she writes compellingly about problems that face us all at different times of our lives.  This is a gem of a book!  SIX STARS.   

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