Moggach’s novel is a masterpiece of red herrings and surprises, twisting its way to reveal a back story that includes a waitress, a Welsh caravan and something that happened to a little girl out looking for butterflies. One of Britain’s best-loved writers, whose novel These Foolish Things inspired the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Moggach is at the height of her powers with this book, which moves from a beautifully observed comedy of middle-class life to an immensely moving celebration of two imperfect marriages.
You might think The Carer rather an unpromising title, but Deborah Moggach’s book delivers a wickedly witty entertainment. Towards the end, she describes the setting where a crucial event takes place — ‘somewhere as humdrum as a caravan park, toilet block, clock golf, Tupperware’. So very good at describing the ordinary, she transforms it into the unusual, shocking and fascinating. Behind the normality of people’s lives there often lies an extraordinary story. It’s this that Moggach tells with insight, acute observation of character and mordant humour...The Carer is an immediately relevant work, a fiction anchored in reality.
Both Phoebe and Robert are stock characters, she drifting into her bland love affair, he drifting out of his, and it’s not difficult to see why Mandy’s arrival in James’ life has as energising an effect on him as having his nightly Horlicks laced with a shot of brandy and a quick dose of Viagra. But for the reader, the loss of their lively conversations and energetic dispositions leaves the novel in a rather dull place. And when an unexpected twist takes place halfway through, it quickly runs out of steam, leaving the reader with the longest epilogue since Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Moggach has written much more complex characters in the past and explored this subject with much more enthusiasm so it’s a little disappointing to say that The Carer ultimately makes for a fairly brisk read that seems unlikely to linger long in one’s mind.
Another winning read from the bestselling author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel...
A reminder that life can be full of surprises.
Deborah Moggach addresses this all too common modern nightmare with ruthless honesty and sublime wit — The Carer is among the funniest novels I have read for ages. Moggach is one of the very few writers (like Posy Simmonds and Howard Jacobson) with an unfailing eye for middle-class absurdity...The Carer is truthful and often moving with joyous flashes of comedy. I have already cast the inevitable film.
This, at its heart, is a novel about family mythologies: about the stories we are told and the stories we allow ourselves to believe in order to protect our perceptions of childhood and parents. As Robert and Phoebe observe when they have begun to uncover the truth: “They knew life was messy – who didn’t, at their age? – but nothing had prepared them for this.”
The mystery at the heart of this joyous novel is the identity of Mandy, the fat and common carer looking after elderly, middle-class James.
It’s a sustained satire on smug middle-class mores, like a deranged Archers omnibus. Can there be higher praise?
If you enjoyed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, there's a good chance you'll love the author's new novel, about elderly James and his carer Mandy, even more. A heart-warming triumph.