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on 30 March 2005
I had read and really liked 'Frozen music' and decided to continue with 'Guppies for tea'. It is a book well worth reading. Marika Cobbold knows how to sketch her characters;she really brings them to life in all their weaknesses and absurdities but she can also show us how courageous and selfless they can be. It is not light reading as it deals with what becomes of old people when their families can't be bothered with them anymore or when they become too much of a
burden and just have to be sent to homes where specialised staff look after them. She writes beautifully about their plight,the total loss of control they have over their lives, the guilt those who care for them have to face when they find themselves unable to cope.
Fortunately the author mixes enough comedy and black humour to make it a very enjoyable read in spite of its dark theme.
I really think those who will take the trouble of reading this book won't regret it!
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This book was on my 'to read' pile for a while, and I finally read it almost in one sitting last night.

Marika Cobbold's first novel is a brave look at the difficulties which accompany growing old, particularly for family members who have to look after ageing and sick relatives. Amelia, a talented young woman in her thirties, is stuck in a going-nowhere relationship with a country solicitor. Her mother is a neurotic, obsessed with germs, and her work isnt' going anywhere. And the person who has offered her unconditional love throughout her life, her Swedish grandmother Selma, is finally deteriorating, both physically and mentally. When Selma's son puts Selma into a retirement home, Amelia determines that there will be one thing that she will not mess up or give up on - she will care for her grandmother until the end. And thus begins a rather moving and bravely honest examination of looking after an elderly woman in the early stages of dementia, as Amelia visits Selma at Cherryfield Retirement Home, takes her out on trips, tries to look after her in her own home and, finally, determines that Selma will once more see the house that she lived in for so many years, and stay there again, maybe even die there...

There was a lot I enjoyed about this book. Cobbold is astute about the elderly - I particularly liked Admiral Mallett, who realizes to his horror that people no longer think of him as quite human due to his advanced age - and conveys Amelia's frustration in looking after her difficult grandmother as well as her great love of her. While I thought Gerald was far too obnoxious for Amelia to have entered into a relationship with him, I enjoyed very much reading about her developing relationship with Henry Mallett, the Admiral's son, a Naval chaplain. And the ending was incredibly moving. However, I have to say that I found the book quite melancholy in many ways. I rather wished that Cobbold had told us more about the young Selma, and filled us in on her life in Sweden and her first, German Jewish husband - we really only saw what Selma was like as a very old lady, and didn't learn enough about what she'd been like as a strong, together woman. I also felt that some of the black humour didn't quite work - Gerald was too nasty really to be funny, and Dagmar's neuroses, including manic handwashing, were too extreme and too painful to be comic. The sections involving Dagmar were extremely disturbing. I'd have also liked to have known a bit more about what happened to Amelia - had she decided on going back to London? All in all, though I thought the book was impressive, I think Cobbold opened up lots of interesting plot possibilities that she didn't quite explore enough. Three and a half stars, though I'm probably being a bit unfair. I've got three other Cobbold novels and am definitely looking forward to reading them, so the book did make me enthusiastic about the writer.
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on 12 December 2013
This was a great read and a real must for anyone who is looking after an elderly relative. The relationship between the 2 main characters is so warm and honest and despite the difficult subject matter of aging and memory loss I found it to be a positive read.
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on 16 January 2015
I really enjoyed reading this book.. I found it very poignant, particularly as my own Father is quite elderly now, and it does make you think about their mortality. It often brought a tear to my eye. I only gave it 3 stars however as I was deeply disappointed with the abrupt ending.
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on 22 January 2013
I bought this book as it was referenced in another book. It seemed like a very accurate description of having to place a family member in a home. The story was touching, funny and ultimately sad and a very good, compelling read.
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on 25 February 2013
A book which tells the truth about old age and how one often feels about a loved one who is soon to die.
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on 18 March 2015
Value for money. Great condition.
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on 9 September 2011
An excellent book for review by my book club. Well written. Looks at life through the eyes of someone with a sense of humour.
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on 2 June 2015
My lady loved this book
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on 7 October 2014
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