I really like Joanna Nell's writing and in this, her third novel, the message is it's never too late to enjoy life.
This is a humorous and moving read, with Hattie Bloom, 89-year-old retired ornithologist, as the main character. Hattie prefers birds and her own company to that of other people. She adores her feathered friends and spends much of her time watching and feeding them in her garden.
However, when she falls off a ladder while trying to help a family of endangered owls who are nesting in an Angophora tree on the corner of her property, she ends up in hospital. From there she has to go to Woodlands Nursing Home until she recovers fully.
She dislikes everything the Home stands for and the feeling of being incarcerated, even if it is only supposed to be for a few weeks. She does manage to 'escape' briefly, her 'getaway vehicle' a taxi, but nursing staff from the Home follow and take her back.
She is desperate to return to her own little - fairly dilapidated - cottage because for one thing she needs to make sure 'her' birds are okay, particularly the owls. She is worried about what her new, non-bird, non-tree friendly neighbours might decide to do (chop the tree down? do something unspeakable to the owls? ) and can see trouble ahead if she isn't there to stop them.
In Woodlands Nursing Home she meets 90 year old Walter Clements. Initially they're not that keen on one another - it doesn't help that he accidentally injures Hattie so rendering her good leg useless for a time - but they do have one thing in common and that's their dislike of being in the Home. He dreams of making a great escape on his mobility scooter. First though, he has to pass his test so that he can drive it. Many of the staff in the Home are portrayed as po-faced, serious folks with an impatient edge, but Sister Bronwyn who has an adorable elderly black Labrador called 'Queenie' is a breath of fresh air. (Not that Hattie likes dogs. or cats for that matter. Birds are her love.) Bronwyn organises the Home's undercover club, The Night Owls but when she is dismissed from her job for being unconventional in her care for the residents, Walter and Hattie join forces to try and come up with a plan to get her reinstated.
It is a delicious read with glorious characters, though I am still unsure whether mentally capable folks like Hattie and Walter could be forced to go into a nursing home if they didn't want to. I feel that is slightly concerning. This lovely book, although lots of fun, does a good job of highlighting the plight of some old people who can no longer look after themselves and the pros and cons of residential facilities. The author (who is herself a GP) says, "While not wanting to sugar coat life in a nursing home, I hope that by focusing on the positives - love, laughter and connection with other humans - this book will provide some solace where it is needed."
So does Hattie manage to save 'her' owls? Does she save the tree? Do the initially horrid neighbours come round to her way of thinking or do things grow worse? Is Walter fortunate enough to pass his mobility vehicle driving test? What happens to Bronwyn's night club? Does Hattie manage to live alone in her own cottage again? I'm not telling - you'll have to buy the book to find out - go on ... treat yourself, you'll be glad you did.
This book is published by Hodder & Stoughton RRP £18.99 Hardback, £8.99 Paperback, also available in e-book and audiobook formats.
The publishers kindly provided me with a copy of the book for review purposes.
I'm Gilly, award winning journalist, travel writer and 12 x author. I'm published in national newspapers / magazines.