“ Author: Hilary Boyd / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 30 August 2012 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Quercus Publishing Plc / Title: Thursdays in the Park / ISBN 13: 9780857385178 / ISBN 10: 0857385178 „
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Usually you just get the early-mid twenties girl who's down on her luck getting to find her Mr Right but this easy-to-read book is just that little bit different. It's about a lady who's a little older, in her sixties, having an affair. It's an emotive subject, I think due to her age, but nonetheless it's a lovely book and easy to read although it did take me a little longer than normal to get in to it. I wouldn't pay full price for it and it wouldn't go on the top of my all-time favourite reads but I read it cover to cover and it did the job of entertaining me for a few weeks while I picked it up at my leisure and read it.
Thursdays in the Park first came to my attention when I heard Hilary Boyd interviewed on Radio 4 - talking about the popularity of 'gran-lit' and romance among the over sixties. Although I felt that Mary Wesley had been down that road several years ago, I was interested enough to download Boyd's novel onto my Kindle - hoping for a light read that had characters that I could relate to.
~~ Plot ~~
Jeanie is 59 and just about to turn 60. Her life is calm and comfortable, with her husband George retired and pottering around with the clocks that are his hobby; a large house in central London and the beloved Healthfood shop that she runs on her own. She has been married to George for over 30 years and is happy with her lot, despite the sadness that always sits at the back of her mind. George has refused a sexual relationship with Jeanie for nearly a decade... but Jeanie comforts herself with the thought that many couples in the autumn of their lives accept this as the status quo. Instead, Jeanie spends her energies in running the shop and taking care of her "adorable" grand-daughter Ellie.
It is only when she bumps into another grandparent at the park that Jeannie starts to question her lot in life. She chats with Ray every week as each of them look after their respective grandchildren in the play park every Thursday. Ray is George's age but different from him in every way; Ray is kind, active and attractive - and he is clearly very attracted to Jeanie. Should Jeanie remain loyal to the man who has supported her for the past 30 years, or should she follow her instincts and find happiness with all of the excitement and adventure that Ray has to offer?
As we follow Jeanie's struggle between loyalty and love, the reader also starts to comprehend the undercurrents that run through Jeanie's life; the real reason that George left the marital bed all those years ago; the truth about her daughter Chanty's marriage; and the dilemmas that Jeanie herself has to face about becoming an OAP and accepting retirement.
~~ Opinion ~~
Hilary Boyd has written a real page-turner here, and I can see why Thursdays in the Park has topped the best-seller list for so long. It is a relief to read about characters that are not uniformly young, sexy and successful. Boyd's characters are comfortingly real: Jeanie is no gym goddess, but has lumpy thighs with cellulite; George is described as sometimes smelling stale and like an old man. There is no glamour here, but a very vivid description of real life and the dilemmas of getting older.
The character of Jeanie is particularly engaging; her guilt and self-doubt about the physical side of her relationship; the feelings she has about being an OAP and being repeatedly called 'Old Girl' by her husband; the sense of history and loyalty that she has after so many years of shared memories with George. All of this is beautifully and accurately described, until the reader is almost begging her to be a bit selfish and do what is best for HER for a change.
The other characters are also very well drawn, especially her son-in-law Alex who almost had me shouting at my Kindle. Alex is a sensitive artist who fails to take any responsibility in life and really does not deserve the unquestioning love that Jeanie's daughter Chanty has for him.
Perhaps the weakest character for me was the love interest ,Ray. Ray seems a little too perfect in this otherwise realistic portrayal. Ray is physically beautiful as an Akido teacher; he is humorous, sensitive and patient. A little too perfect and synthetic perhaps. The controversy in the book comes in Ray and Jeanie's strong sexual attraction. In a world where sex is all around us, thrust in our faces (so to speak) by the young, it seems almost scandalous to acknowledge that the over sixties can enjoy a teenage style sexual obsession. Ray's biggest attraction seems to be his sexuality - he is not rich, he is not exceptionally intelligent - but he does have what is described as a magnificent body, a wonderful seduction technique and pretty good sexual prowess.
~~ Conclusion ~~
Thursdays in the Park had me hooked from the start; I found the characters realistic and engaging and I found myself caring what happened to them, empathising with their thoughts and dilemmas. The plot is simple but really does get you obsessively turning pages. I would recommend this as a light read for people of any age - but I do think that more mature readers will see many echoes of their own lives, thoughts and feelings - and so would particularly recommend it for them.
This is unashamed gran-lit. It is about 'nice' middle class people and is a good yarn without getting into any serious issues. It gets 4 stars from me as an entertaining read.
Hilary Boyd is a relatively unknown writer. She is British and in her early sixties - but firmly denies any biographical elements to this book!
The success of Thursdays in the Park may primarily be because of E-book sales, where it has now sold more than 100,000 copies. Translation rights have been sold in France, Sweden, Finland and Germany and Charles Dance is negotiating to write, direct and star in the movie.
I bought my copy for Kindle for 20p but it currently sells in paperback on Amazon for £4.99
It was published by Quercus in 2012 and the paperback copy has 352 pages.
Well my run of good reads couldn't last forever! That is now two disappointing books in a row which I haven't really enjoyed reading and have felt let down by. I had been recommended this book by a few people and apparently it's really popular at the moment, the reviews on Amazon sounded promising and I thought if it's so popular then it must have something about it... sadly I was disappointed.
This story tells of Jeanie and George. Jeanie is approaching her 60th birthday and it appears that she has some hesitations, she doesn't feel old yet people keep referring to her as being so including her husband and daughter. Her husband is really very keen to move away to the country and ignores Jeanie's protests about being quite happy where she is. He pretty much ignores her opinions and goes ahead and looks at houses and such anyway. Whilst all the pressure of moving to the country is happening, Jeanie takes her granddaughter to the park every Thursday and this is where she meets Ray who looks after his grandson. She has an instant connection with this stranger, they agree to meet regularly and it soon turns into much more than innocent meetings. Things haven't been happy between Jeanie and George for a while, there is an elephant in the room but it is never spoken about until when Jeanie eventually admits to George that she has feelings for someone else. Will this elephant, now out in the open, lead to Jeanie and George being happy again? Will moving to the country really help?
The characters were created to an average extent as far as I am concerned. I found them really quite irritating and wasn't sure if they were supposed to be or not or whether Boyd just didn't create them quite the way she intended. George confused me as he was quite domineering yet they would often describe him as being a constant, solid and so forth yet the way he was wasn't at all consistent. Jeanie frustrated me as she was created to be shown as someone who was head-strong, who knew what she wanted yet she seemed as though she just gave up really easily, kind of shrugged off that people didn't take her seriously and then would just moan about it afterwards.If she was so head strong and capable then why was she not fighting her corner? These contradictions didn't really make the story any worse but they do mean that actually being able to relate or get to know the characters really well for very difficult to do.
This story was weak. If you have read a chick lit book before then you will have pretty much read this! It is nothing new at all and so predictable from the word go. I think that Boyd tried to create a sense of mystery about what secret George was hiding but it didn't seem to really have that effect, I didn't feel compelled to read because I wanted to know what his secret was, in fact I just got frustrated that Jeanie had lived with it and didn't do anything about it for over ten years. I can see that the author was really trying to add twists and turns with putting in the aspect of a move to the country, Jeanie not getting on with her son in law and so forth but these were never built up enough, they were always just background details and there just was not enough meat in this book for me.
I couldn't understand how some parts came about. One minute Jeanie was adamant that she was not moving yet then a few pages later she would be looking around houses with George and there had been no dialogue about how he had persuaded her to look or her thoughts on how he had done so. I was a bit confused and wondering why she had gone with him if she was so against it but this part seemed to be missing. I found it frustrating to think that she went along with such a big move, it was as though the author was also dismissing the importance of a move; how can an older couple move away from everything they know just like that? it was very strange how Jeanie who could run a business and be strong enough to tell her husband she had feelings for someone else still went ahead with moving with him instead of standing her ground.
I found that the affair was really full of clinches so much so that it was awkward to read without wanting to cringe and trying to remember where I'd heard the lines before. I think what was missing in this book was emotion, I didn't feel pulled towards a character so I wasn't compelled to find out what happened, I just felt I was reading for the sake of getting to the end. I had hoped there would be a twist of some form so that I could say it had been worth my time but sadly there were no twists.
Another thing that I found odd was when George had a depressive episode. It was described in a bizarre way and he seemed to suddenly just snap out of it one day. It was far from convincing, anyone who has been through depression themselves will see that even when you do see the light and begin to recover it's not a case of you can suddenly just snap out of it. Again, it wasn't convincing at all.
I was disappointed by this book. It was alright, it was tame enough and an easy read, it didn't tax the brain at all but it just wasn't compelling and it was actually quite depressing most of the way through with nobody being happy. I won't recommend this!
I have had Thursdays in the Park sitting on my kindle for a little while now and when It started getting called "granny-lit" I had to move this to the front of my To Be Read list to see what on earth this book could be about to be called a granny-lit I was just hoping that at 27 years of age I would be OK reading this!
What do you do if you've been married to a man for half your life and out of nowhere he leaves your bed - permanently? When this happens to Jeanie, she's furious and hurt, and determined to confront George, her husband of thirty years. Is he in love with someone else? What did she do wrong? He won't tell her.
The brightest day of her week is Thursday, the day Jeanie takes her granddaughter to the park. There, one day, she meets Ray and his grandson. Ray is kind, easy to talk to, and gorgeous - everything George isn't. She starts to live for Thursdays. But does she have the courage, in the teeth of opposition from all sides, to turn her life upside down for another shot at love?
I think the whole term "granny-lit" is going to be met with the same angry faces as "chick-lit" but please don't let this term put you off because I actually really enjoyed this book. It made a change to have a main character who is approaching 60 as our typical heroines tend to be 25-35 years of age so this made for a nice change reading about the older generation. Jeanie is a very realistic character who leads a very normal life and she is in a marriage that has had its ups and downs and unfortunately like a lot of marriages Jeanie can feel her marriage slipping away. I love how realistic the whole of this book felt nothing seemed far-fetched it almost felt as though Jeanie was a friend sitting there telling you her story.
The majority of the book did flow well but towards the end it did feel as though it was being drawn out a bit and going around in circles but it wasn't long before the storyline got on track again and then tied us up with a perfect ending. I also found the baby talk from Ellie was a little grating but I often find this when authors try to write a young character into a story.
The book covers a wide range of issues such as abuse, secrecy and affairs but one thing that it is not heavy on ( just in case you believe all you read in the media) is sex. Yes there are a couple of sex scenes but they are not graphic or distasteful, they are fitting in with the storyline and do not make you feel uncomfortable.
This is definitely worth reading especially at the current Kindle price of only 20p !
~Have you heard about the couple who divorced in their nineties because they were waiting until all the kids were dead?~
It's an old joke but one that popped back into my mind whilst I was reading this book. What will people put themselves through in order to try to please their children ahead of trying to please themselves? If this book is an example, perhaps older people contemplating separation might feel the need to wait until their children are past caring.
'Thursdays in the Park' by Hilary Boyd caused quite a stir when it was published earlier this year primarily because the heroine and her love interest were both in, or near, their 60s. The media loved this sweet tale that reminded readers that there can be both love and passion between grannies and granddads and that falling in love was not the unique privilege of the young. I'm rather surprised that was seemingly such a surprise but then that might have something to do with my best friend at school who had a grandmother who was attempting to break Henry VIII's record for the number of marriages. Husband number five dropped dead at the wedding reception; husband number 6 was not far behind. It's never been in my mind that 60-year olds (and people older than that) had somehow signed up for a loveless life of celibacy.
I unashamedly despise chick lit so I didn't really expect to particularly enjoy lit in which the chick was more of an old boiler than a spring chicken. I'm too old (and my IQ is a good 40 points too high) to read the tales of 20-30 year old ditzy heroines who like to go shopping and keep falling in love with the wrong people which typically make up the genre. I'm also far too young to be reading 'Thursdays in the Park' but I couldn't resist seeing what all the fuss was about and when it came up as a cheap offer on Kindle I decided it was worth a gamble. Even if I didn't enjoy it, maybe my mum would. I forget exactly what I paid but you can get it on Amazon for as little as 20 pence although prices go up and down like a chick-lit heroine's spirits. I read it this week whilst I was travelling, thinking that what I needed to survive 5 hours of flights was something light, fluffy and a bit of a page turner.
~The Plot - not that there's a lot of it~
Jeanie has been married to George for three decades during which time they've done rather well for themselves. I'm not sure what George did for a living but thanks to inheriting the family home in a well-to-do area of London, he and Jeanie have a very comfortable life. She has a health food store, plays tennis and goes swimming with friends and enjoys taking her granddaughter, Ellie, for walks in the park. George likes to tinker with his collection of old clocks and play golf. But George has a plan to move to the countryside, sell up and enjoy a seaside retirement which isn't quite how Jeanie - sick of being referred to by him as 'old girl' - sees her twilight years playing out. Jeanie doesn't consider herself to be old and isn't ready for slippers and a lap rug. She's heading for a late-mid-life crisis and George seems blind to her protestations. Clearly he thinks Jeanie doesn't know her own mind whilst he knows 'what's good for her'.
Jeanie and George's daughter Chanty has an artist husband called Alex of whom her parents don't entirely approve. Chanty and Alex also encourage Jeanie to go along with George's plans, all the more so when Chanty discovers that whilst looking after her granddaughter on Thursday afternoons, Jeanie has been loitering in the park with an attractive grandpa called Ray. Thanks to Alex starting some unfortunate rumours about Ray, the budding friendship with Jeanie is put under pressure. What starts out innocently as two older people chatting in the park whilst 'walking' their grandchildren, soon turns into lots of furtive yearning and self-torture. Can Jeanie defy the demands of her daughter to give up Ray, should she follow her heart and can she break away from the man with whom she's spent more than half her life?
~Sex and the Sixties~
If the publicity has led you to expect a raunchy romp, a sort of '50 Shades of Grey Hair' then you will be very disappointed. If you prefer your literary sex to be strictly only when necessary and to be given the writer's equivalent of waves crashing on the beach in 'From Here to Eternity' then this book should be pretty acceptable. It's delightfully free of all the squelchy stuff. If you're expecting plenty of rumpy pumpy then you'll need to be patient - when it finally happens you'll be nearly three quarters of the way through the book and it's rather a 'blink and you'll miss it' business. I found the 'shall I, shan't I' torment of Jeanie as she tries to decide whether to fall, whether to run away, whether to give George a second chance and whether to continue being pushed around by a complete control freak, quite but not very interesting. I know these things happen, I know that these are not particularly interesting circumstances but the whole story has hidden shallows - there's just very little depth to this amateurish little novel.
I'm not a chick-lit expert (thankfully) but I found the standard of the prose to be painfully constructed and packed with cliché. In order to make our heroine a 'good girl' despite her bad intentions, we are given a background of a sexless marriage for the previous decade as if that somehow makes it OK for her to run off after sexy-Ray. When we eventually find out why George went cold on Jeanie all those years before, we're left wondering if it's actually true or just another aspect of his controlling nature. Having watched a friend of mine try to split with her husband who managed to just carry on acting as if everything was exactly like normal, I did find George's behaviour eerily believable and I would say he was the most fascinating character in this rather dull book. There are no surprises in the plot - no twists or unexpected turns and no plot devices that aren't well tested and well worn. The only difference from zillions of other novels of the genre is the age of the protagonists and I'm afraid that's really not enough to make this book in any way special.
Despite my better judgement and my expectations, by the time I'd slogged my way through the first two thirds of the book with a determination to 'get to the end even if it kills me', I was oddly starting to almost slightly care what happened at the end. I was pretty sure I knew exactly how it would end, but not 100% sure exactly how we'd get there. As the story sucked me in, I learned to ignore the clichéd writing and just let it flow over me. I enjoyed the pronouncements of the young granddaughter who calls Jeanie 'Gin' and comes out with some delightful phrases but occasionally spouts something that's grammatically way beyond her toddler years.
One aspect that I felt should have received a bit more exploration to make it seem a bit more 'real' was the financial impact of breaking up a long established marriage. The characters are all so well-heeled that Jeanie's 'Shall I, shan't I?' self-debate manages to ignore one of the most critical issues that would affect most women in her position; less 'Can I?' and more 'Can I afford to?' George is looking at properties for one and a half million pounds, Jeanie has her own shop with a flat over it and Ray has a flat with lovely views and an Aikido club. Nobody's going to be wondering where the next Sanatogen is coming from. In the 'real' world, the decisions she takes would have massively complex financial repercussions but in the 'love will conquer all' world, there's not a mention of how everyone will survive if they shake things up.
Chick lit is supposed to be about fantasy and light-hearted romance so I shouldn't perhaps be so harsh. My criticism is that of someone who thinks the world would be a better place without 'women's romantic fiction' and is no stronger for 'Thursdays in the Park' than for any other books of its type. If you love this sort of thing then you'll love this sort of book. If you'd rather stick pins in your eyes than read poorly written books with clearly sign-posted plots and predictable endings, then you'll perhaps feel like me and only finish it so you can be really rude about it after. Ignore my thoughts completely and take a look at the Amazon reviewers who almost universally adore this book. It had a solid 4-star rating with more people giving it 5 stars than any other rate. They can't all be wrong but you can be sure that none of them is me.