More about losing one's place in time and place, as well as space than about age, and more about the present being a foreign land rather than the past...! A good read, and Raban's prose is solid, but not dense.
I've just read this book for the fourth time and with the same pleasure as the first.
It is the tale of a 60-year-old Englishman, George Grey, who retires to Cornwall after working in the shipping business in West Africa for over 30 years.
Adjusting to a new life means trying to re-establish a relationship with his estranged daughter who is in her mid-30s and cope with a society that has changed so much during his absence that it has become virtually a foreign land.
He also tries to cope with the end of his affair with a local woman back in Africa at the same time as he strikes up a contact with another former expatriate - an Englishwoman in her 50s who used to be a well-known singer and lived in the United States.
It all proves to be too much and the only way he can escape is by abandoning his moral scruples and using a secret bribe he accepted from a corrupt African dictator that allows him to buy his own boat and find the freedom he seeks.
It is a bittersweet story and Raban leaves the reader on the last page to decide whether George will find the heaven he is looking for or end up in a more hellish kind of place.
Much of the book takes place inside George's head as he has conversations with his long-dead father, an eccentric Church of England clergyman, his war bride ex-wife whom he has not seen for years and other characters from his childhood and period in the navy.
At times it is very funny - George's bafflement with TV shows and his hopeless dealings with a lecherous television shop owner - and other times poignant as he realizes that he will never to restore any real link with his daughter.
I am surprised that Raban does raise the moral issue of George's use of the bribe but I am not complaining as this would have gone against the tone of the book.
Raban portrays his characters affectionately and is particularly convincing in writing about the difference between living on land and living on a boat.
Foreign land is an exceptionally well written novel and somewhat boring. Some excellent metaphors. The story is all over the place to the extent that it is utterly confusing at times and it is only the stylish writing that kept me interseted. Quite a predictable end to a rather uninspiring tale. Good for helping you fall asleep at night...two pages and you are out.