The Growing Pains of Jennifer Ebert, Aged 19 Going on 91 – Book Review

I had great trepidation in reading this book. It wasn’t that it’s a bad boo to look at or I thought I was going to struggle with it. It’s just that it’s the follow up novel from my favourite book of last year, Calling Major Tom. Could this book bring the same sense of good feelings that the last book by David Barnett had wrote?

Well it wasn’t about Major Tom, which was a good thing as the last book by the author was perfect and a follow up would have messed that up. It is however part of the ‘universe’ Major Tom lives in.This one follows a group of students at the (fictional?) Morecambe University. As their halls of residence are not finished they are housed in a care home called Sunset Promenade, along with a small group of much older residents. It’s part of a social experiment to see if the two ages can get together and bond together. All the residents have their own personalities which come through as the pages flow.

The main character is a nineteen year old student, Jenny Ebert, who has just transferred from Loughborough after an embarrassing episode. She likes old films, and like a lot of us tries to re-invent herself as what she thinks she should be. In her case its’ Lauren Bacall. With her at Sunset, such an appropriate name for a place where people go for their last days, is a liverpudlian called Ringo, I won’t spoil why, and a couple of chinese students studying at the business school. The home is run by a couple of brothers who strive hard to keep the fees accessible for their residents. Doing all the care work is Florin, an east european help who seems to do everything for the residents. Add it the cast of the old people along with a few peripheral figures, and you have the makings of a fine ensemble comedy show.

The book is beautifully written and thought out. I need not have worried that it would fail to live up to the previous book. Totally different, yet refreshing similar, its really about how two stubborn groups react to each other. Along the way we touch on brexit, stubbornness, loneliness, acceptance of yourself and living the way you want. There are so many perfect moments in the book, that make you exclaim ‘yes’, that I’m not going to list them all, you need to go on the journey and find them for yourself. The one that most got me nodding was when an elderly resident, Mr Robinson, realises that his voting for Brexit, might just put his whole life at risk.

An excellent book that really does have that feelgood factor. I come out of it fulfilled and with a sense that finding the common ground with someone is really the only way we’re every going to understand each other. With all the worlds problems, form Brexit, the the rise of fascism across the world along with what some call ‘plain talking’ and I’d call insensitive and divisive (looking at you here Mr President…) this book made me realise even more that the only way to peace is to talk and accept.

100% recommended


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