She did a little agony dance whilst she waited for the pain to ease, blowing on her fingers. Damn. She’d need to get outside to dunk her hand in the cold water barrel.
Her oldest friend, Tilsbury, was always harping on about that darned pan; said that using it, without a lid, instead of a kettle, might prove disastrous one day. Gloria wouldn’t buy a kettle, though. Said she didn’t have the money for expensive items like that. Well, her son, Clegg, had given her a credit card for ‘essential items’ but she never went anywhere to use it. In fact, she rarely went out at all. She didn’t really need to.
Today she’d knocked the pan by accident, reaching over to check the potato soup she was cooking for their lunch. These days she was always eating potato soup, on account that she had a large sack of them, out back, that Tilsbury had got from someone in the know. She liked that it could be a cheap nourishing meal when she had onions, carrots and a good stock in it.
But, today, she only had potatoes. Add a bit of salt and it would have to do, she’d thought. Anyway, the hot water for their tea, boiling away in the pan next to the soup, had sploshed onto her left hand as she’d leaned over the grimy stove to stir their meal.
Gloria grunted as she hitched up her Crimplene dress and clambered over the piles of squashed cardboard boxes and magazines, nearly slipping on mouldy teabags, decomposing potato skins, marmalade-smeared crusts and other detritus around the kitchen sink unit. She no longer noticed the stink like rotting cabbage. Empty, dripping or congealed milk cartons, plastic bags and other household rubbish also littered the floor – more obstacles to tackle – in order to get to that cold water barrel, outside by the back door. The original Georgian taps in her kitchen sink had long since seized up. So the only water she could use was in that rainwater barrel, outdoors: for cooking, for occasional washing, for everything really.
But, at seventy-nine, she knew she was getting too old for all this.
ABOUT THIS BOOK: 79-year-old Gloria Frensham is a hoarder. She lives amongst piles of magazines, squashed cardboard boxes, surplus carpet rolls, heaps of towels and knick-knacks littering the stairs. She hasn’t left her home for years, until a loud bang and a sudden smell of singeing sets in motion Gloria’s unwilling exodus from her home…
That day is the start of a journey that will never return Gloria back to her beloved, hoarded possessions, nor to her son’s house to live. For it is the start of her journey to discover life again – and she’s going to make some good friends and defiant decisions along the way, with just one very small suitcase in tow…
MY THOUGHTS: The publicity blurb says, and I quote ‘Heart-warming and poignant in equal measure, this is a story about the loneliness of life, the struggles of growing old, the power of kindness, and the bravery it takes to leave our comfort zones.’, but I felt nothing of this.
It is superficial. There is no depth to either the characters or the plot. I felt no involvement only, briefly, revulsion at the broken tea bags and rotting cabbage leaves that litter the kitchen floor. And it is here that a distinction needs to be made. Most hoarders live quite cleanly. No, I am not a hoarder, except of books. The author is quite correct in that people hoard in response to a sense of loss, but living in squalor, in filth, is something quite different again.
Gloria’s road to recovery is far to quick and smooth, she wavers only twice, resisting temptation both times. After all those years of hoarding she is miraculously cured by a few days of counselling in the rest home? Not likely.
The Woman Who Kept Everything read somewhat like a child’s bedtime story. In my head, it was being read by a very soporific voice, one designed to put me to sleep, and it did. This could have been a brilliantly funny and touching story but, for me, it missed the mark by a very wide mile.
This book is compared with The Lady in the Van and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, both of which I loved. Not even close.
THE AUTHOR: Jane Gilley has previously self-published five children’s books. The Woman Who Kept Everything is her debut adult novel.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Woman Who Kept Everything by Jane Gilley for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my Goodreads.com page https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2598306498