About the Book
Just because you feel ordinary doesn’t mean you aren’t extraordinary to someone else.
Sixty-two-year-old Elsie knows what she likes. Custard creams at four o’clock, jigsaw puzzles with a thousand pieces, her ivy covered, lavender-scented garden.
Ten-year-old Billy would rather spend his Saturdays kicking a ball, or watching TV, or anything really, other than being babysat by his grumpy neighbour Elsie and being force fed custard creams.
If it was up to them, they’d have nothing to do with each other. Unfortunately, you can’t choose who you live next door to.
But there is always more to people than meets the eye…
Elsie doesn’t know that Billy’s afraid to go to school now, or why his mother woke him up in the middle of the night with an urgent shake, bags already packed, ready to flee their home.
Billy doesn’t know that the rusting red tin he finds buried in Elsie’s treasured garden is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode her carefully organised life. And that when he digs it up, he is unearthing a secret that has lain dormant for twenty-eight years…
What I thought
This the second book I’ve read written by this author. I enjoyed the last one The Wish List of Albie Young reviewed here but I do think this one is even better.
It runs along a similar theme as the last book, 62 year old Elsie lives alone, sticks to her daily routine, appears prickly to those she comes into contact with and has no friends or relations to speak of. This is pretty much the same as Maria Birch the protagonist in the previous book, however Elsie’s saviour is 10 year old Billy who lives next door to Elsie with his mum.
Billy and Elsie have a somewhat tempestuous relationship throughout the book and we hear the story from both characters in alternating chapters. Billy moves next door to Elsie with his mum after his mum ups and leaves her controlling husband in the middle of the night moving far enough away for him not to be able to find them. Struggling on her own to hold down a job waitressing in a restaurant and trying to ensure Billy is looked after during her erratic shifts, she enlists the help of Elsie to look after Billy while she’s at work.
Elsie, never having had much experience with children struggles to know what to do with a somewhat sullen 10 year old boy to keep him entertained and Billy isn’t the easiest of children to get along with at first, missing his Dad and his old school friends, he’s finding it difficult to understand why they’ve had to move away. He certainly doesn’t like going to stay with the rather odd Elsie with her obsessive routines, her custard cream biscuits and her habit of talking to the walls.
Eventually they grow to tolerate each other and to get along mainly through Elsie’s garden when Billy becomes enthusiastic about gardening with Elsie and helping her to tidy things up as it’s all become too much for her. This leads to the discovery of a box buried at the bottom of the garden. It fascinates Billy as to why it should be there and why Elsie seems to know far more about it than she’s prepared to admit.
As the story moves on secrets are very gradually revealed about Elsie’s life and what has led her to live in such an isolated way. We also hear lots about Billy. He’s having a pretty tough time of things what with the school bully making his life a misery, the fact they haven’t any money and don’t even have a TV. But though Elsie might be a bit of an odd ball, despite their ups and downs and their fall outs, because poor Billy never seems to be able to put a foot right where Elsie is concerned, she does prove to be a good listener when it comes to his unhappiness and problems at school.
It’s a lovely story with both comical and very poignant moments mixed in. It tells the story of an unlikely bond between young and old, about past regrets and learning to face your demons in order to grow and live life again the way it was intended to be enjoyed.
I loved it and look forward to the next book by this author.
♥ Happy Reading ♥
The book is out on Kindle today 1 April 2020. I read an advance copy of this book via Secret Readers