Elizabeth is forty-six and a widow. Since she was seventeen years old, she knew that Edward was the man she wanted to marry, and contrary to her mother’s advice, when she turned twenty-one, she did indeed marry Edward. Although there was a fifteen year difference, back then, it didn’t seem to matter… but now that Edward has passed on, Elizabeth is left alone. What to do? Her entire life had revolved around marriage and family.
Luckily for Elizabeth, (or maybe not?) she has three adult children who all think they know what Elizabeth should do. Hugh, an aspiring politician like his father Edward, thinks Elizabeth should host dinners for him to get to know ‘all the right people’. After all, this is what his mother had done for his father her entire married life. She enjoyed it. (Right?)
Susan, with three young and very energetic children, knows that the best way for her mother to combat loneliness is to care for Susan’s three children so that Susan can (escape) go back to work.
“It was Monday morning and breakfast-time, the worst hour of the whole week, when Susan found her husband even more irritating than usual and her children frankly intolerable.
They clamoured round the table now. Simon, his shrillness only partly muted by a bulging mouthful, was telling Lucy what babyish things were done by Form Two.
Lucy, who had only moved up into Form Two this term, was protesting indignantly, her eyes already brimming.
Miranda, a round and philosophic child, was quietly chasing a spoonful of soft-boiled egg round her bowl. As Susan’s harassed glance reached her, she captured her spoonful and dropped it thoughtfully over the side of the high-chair. Looking up she gave her mother a silent, conspiratorial beam.”
And then there is Joanna, who knows that the best way to hang on to her (scruffy, rude and jobless) newest flame is to offer him, rent-free, the attic of her mother’s home to live in. And wouldn’t that be nice for Elizabeth to have the company?
“Elizabeth took a deep breath. This would certainly put the cat among the pigeons, but if Joanna were determined… ‘Hugh, I don’t think you quite appreciate the position. Joanna and Mike are hoping to get married.’
There was a stunned pause. Joanna looked at her lap. Hugh and Susan, unexpectedly united, exchanged a glance of horror.
Hugh spoke first. ‘Married? To him?’
Joanna raised her head. ‘Why not?’ she demanded.
‘I suppose there’s no accounting for taste,’ said Susan.’
The trouble is, Elizabeth herself wants none of these things. Elizabeth’s family first suspect change is in the air when they discover that “Mother” has actually taken a trip to London, returning with a new hairdo and (of all things), a pantsuit! But there are worse things ahead. Much to their surprise (and dismay), Elizabeth’s children find that she has developed a relationship with an old friend who selfishly wants to take “Mother” away from them (and their well-constructed, mercenary plans). Adrian not only wants Elizabeth to marry him but he also sees through the self-seeking motives of her three children, and he just might be the answer to all of Elizabeth’s dilemmas in seeking to please her children (as she has always done before).
How this novel plays out with the viewpoints of all three children plus Elizabeth’s own is not only a fast and entertaining read but also, quite simply, hilarious! It was just what I needed after a stressful week of the pre-Christmas rush. I hope there are more novels written by Pamela Sykes for me to discover!