Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Extra ordinary life of Frank Derrick age 81 - J B Morrison

From the publisher's introduction....

Frank Derrick is eighty-one. And he’s just been run over by a milk float. It was tough enough to fill the hours of the day when he was active. But now he’s broken his arm and fractured his foot, it looks set to be a very long few weeks ahead. 

Frank lives with his cat Bill (which made more sense before Ben died) in the typically British town of Fullwind-on-Sea. The Villages in Bloom competition is the topic of conversation amongst his neighbours but Frank has no interest in that. He watches DVDs, spends his money frivolously at the local charity shop and desperately tries to avoid the cold callers continuously knocking on his door. 

Emailing his daughter in America on the library computer and visiting his friend Smelly John used to be the highlights of his week. Now he can’t even do that. Then a breath of fresh air comes into his life in the form of Kelly Christmas, home help. With her little blue car and appalling parking, her cheerful resilience and ability to laugh at his jokes, Kelly changes Frank’s life. She reminds him that there is a big wide-world beyond the four walls of his flat and that adventures, however small, come to people of all ages. 

Frank and Kelly’s story is sad and funny, moving, familiar, uplifting. It is a small and perfect look at a life neither remarkable nor disastrous, but completely extraordinary nonetheless. For fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry this is a quirky, life affirming story that has enormous appeal. And it’s guaranteed to make you laugh.

My thoughts

When I was offered the chance of a copy of this book to read and review I ummed and ahhed at first. From the write up it sounds a touch ridiculous a bit OTT - I love gentle humour but I can't stand farce.

However, when I read through a few reviews from people whose judgement I trust and whose tastes I know are similar to mine I thought "let's give it go then" and I'm SO very glad I did, I loved it.

Frank Derrick is a very ordinary elderly man, living an ordinary life in an ordinary seaside town. He lives alone since his wife died and extra ordinary things just seem to happen to him leaving him even worse off, the accident with a milk float which leaves him unable to manage the simplest everyday tasks in his ordinary life is just typical, he seems to attract the ridiculous and even in this unfortunate accident his dignity is shattered.

He could be a real grumpy old man as he has few friends and a dislike of most members of the public he meets calling his neighbours in secret by amusing native American nicknames, but he is really quite utterly charming. His best friend Smelly John the infirm ex punk rocker and his cat Bill are really his only companions apart from the steady stream of cold callers and salespeople trying to rip him off. But his daughter unable to visit, living as she is in USA sends him a home help and suddenly his life takes on a new dimension, in her short one visit a week Kelly Christmas, home carer, gives him something to look forward to and is a willing, captive audience for his little quips and jokes. It's his outlook on life and his refusal to BE an old fart which make his life so amusing and this lovely book an absolute pleasure to read.

You have to read this book to appreciate its humour and poignancy yet in many ways I found it unbearably sad. It's about old age, loneliness and the importance relatively small kindnesses assume to someone who is alone. 

I so SO wanted something REALLY extraordinary to happen in his life but all the things that do happen are so everyday its only when your life is as EXTRA ordinary as Franks that they assume such huge importance. His trips to the charity shop and the supermarket are all written with such tongue in cheek irreverence you can't help but keep turning the pages and even though I rattled through it in a weekend, Frank Derrick 81 will remain in my thoughts for quite some time.

My huge thanks to Pan MacMillan and the author J B Morrison for lighting up MY very ordinary life with the smiles and sighs this book provided.

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