Top positive review
A 3-in-1 bargain
5 June 2018
Good on you, Evie Gallagher ! Her story moves, at a spanking rate, through three literary genres. It starts in “pensioner emancipation” mode when Evie, “bereaved, bored and going barmy” makes a break from her residential home in Dublin where “the soothing music told the residents they were in a caring environment.”
A lucky bet in her first hours of freedom funds the ferry crossing to Liverpool where a mugging and a radical makeover complete Evie's liberation and her story moves into the “French grass is greener” mode, as she takes a second ferry across to Brittany and then heads south. Meanwhile the care home contacts Evie's only son, the inadequate Brendan, who takes off in pursuit, dragging his grudging wife Maura in tow.
France, naturally, weaves her seductive spell on all three in ways they don't expect. Evie graduates to an elderly campervan and heads south for Carcassonne and the sun, driving erratically through several wine regions, before landing up – thanks to an alchoholic spree – in an Irish bar just north of the Pyrenees. As to that seductive spell, author Judy Leigh can't help describing Evie's journey in so much loving detail that you can trace the route in a road atlas ~ Roscoff to the Crozon peninsula in Brittany, south to Angers and on to Limousin, Bergerac and Marmande ~ and the food and drink on the way come off the page in true Peter Mayle style.
Evie keeps Brendan and Maura on the chase (mapped out in similar detail, meals and all) by sending a string of phone messages in Franglais, so that what began as a weekend trip to fetch her home stretches out further, as their lacklustre marriage is also stretched to the limit and Brendan struggles to find “Caucasians” and “Foykes” with more of an effort than he or Maura put in to finding where the pair of them lost touch with each other. Finally, in a vineyard “two kilometres outside Saint-Girons on the road to Foix”, the full cast meets up for the final act.
And so the Odyssey morphs into the third mode, echoing a Rosamund Pilcher narrative of people rediscovering themselves and their relationships. “Brendan frowned; he was not used to a conversation like this. His father had talked to him about sport and what was in the newspapers, but never love.” Without giving away anything of the plot or its outcome, French bonhomie, joie de vivre and je ne sais quoi are skilfully blended with equal doses of Irish craic, Irish recalcitrance and Irish puritanism to – in the end – produce a happy ending that might just be the start of a new chapter.
There you are, then, three books in one, lots of laughs on the way and a great summer read into the bargain. Can't be bad, can it ?