July ‘book to look forward to’: Live a Little. Howard Jacobson (Cape). Kindle edition. £9.99

The brief description added on the Literary Review Calendar of ‘books to look forward to’ for MONTH 2019 said:

‘A funny, provocative novel about falling in love at the very end of your life, from the Man Booker winner’.

I hadn’t noticed the ‘very end of your life’ in the Guardian Literary Review description of this book.  I expected it to be about people in later life falling in love and for me, I guess, later life equated to 60’s or 70’s so it was a particular delight to find that our main characters are, unusually in fiction and even less so in love stories, nonagenarians and this is so much more than a simple love story. 

Alex Clark posted an interesting and story detailed (so some spoiler potential) review of the book which can be found here

With the exception of mention of finding the book to be an occasionally difficult read (as I did), the summary of Clarks review draws attention to key points to note about the book – the urgency and bleakness, the humour and style, the tenderness and thought provoking narrative and as I couldn’t agree more or have put it better myself there is no point in trying to and I recommend a trip over to his lovely review.

Why do I always imagine ‘older’ as only very slightly older than myself?

Reading this quite lovely book made me think about why I imagined ‘older’ as slightly older than myself, and why initially, before I had even read a word of it my enthusiasm for it was a little dulled precisely because it was about older people.  Was that just ageism on my part or something else?  Was it, as Ashton Applewhite argues in her TED Talk have origins in my own fear of my future self?  Was I afraid of the possibilities/probabilities of older age (some of them already manifest) such as body degeneration, loss of people and faculties, significant lifestyle changes and poor care?

Books create a magically open window through which to see the world a little differently and maybe affirm or change our held views. We learn and develop through virtually everything we read and plough this learning back into our engagement with the world. There are plenty of great books which feature older protagonists – Driving Miss Daisy, The Remains of the Day, Love Again – which of course are just the ones that come to mind. 

These book though do have an element of ‘looking backwards’ about them, as if there is not much left to look forward to.

I very much hope to have lots to look forward to 70 and beyond. The reality is though that these tend to be books specifically about ageing and the imminent presence of the grim reaper.  I do not know how the majority of fiction/contemporary novel book characters might be categorized but generally they seem to me to be childbearing to young-ish middle age.  I have three novels on the go at the moment (two crime, one up-lit) and whilst the age of all of the characters is not specified, actions suggest no character falls out of the 30 – 50 age range.  I was intrigued to read an article by Saffron Alexander in the Telegraph about so-called ‘boomer lit’ – that is, literature for the baby boomers of the 60’s who are now in their 50’s and 60’s.  Boomer lit apparently ‘addresses what matters to (boomers) as they enter into their ‘Second Adulthood’*. Typically, such literature deals with transition, and the management of change – ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ is given as one example. 

Jacobson’s book, quite apart from being a delicious read, prods me to add ‘older characters’ to my growing list of ‘things often missing in novels’ so that I can be active in making sure characters I create in my fiction writing are fully representative of all communities.

*There is a whole blog post which could be written about the so called ‘second adulthood’ if only I did not loathe every element of patronising twaddle I have read about what it actually is!