'A . . . tender love story . . . This book is alive. It pulses with warmth and intelligence' The Times
A wickedly observed novel about falling in love at the end of your life, by the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Finkler Question.
At the age of ninety-something, Beryl Dusinbery is forgetting everything – including her own children. She spends her days stitching morbid samplers and tormenting her two carers with tangled tales of her husbands and affairs.
Shimi Carmelli can do up his own buttons, walks without a frame and speaks without spitting. Among the widows of North London, he’s whispered about as the last of the eligible bachelors. He forgets nothing –especially not the shame of a childhood incident that has long hung over him. There's very little left remaining for either of them. . . But perhaps just enough to heal some of the hurt inflicted along the way, and find new meaning in what's left.
*SHORTLISTED FOR THE WINGATE LITERARY PRIZE 2020*
Booker-winner Jacobson's latest is a deliciously entertaining, rollicking dark comedy about nonagenarians searching for meaning while confronting their deepest fears. Beryl Dusinbery has survived countless marriages and torrid love affairs yet finds herself terrified of forgetting words and being rendered incommunicative. She spends her days making elaborate needlework designs of "death samplers," with morbid phrases ("he was born without fuss and died without fuss, slipping out of life like an oystery down an open throat. That wasn't so difficult,' he said, and expired. No one was listening.") while giving her caregivers a hard time. Shimi Carmelli is a 91-year-old diviner whose clients are a circle of wealthy London widows who consider him to be an eligible bachelor: he walks without an apparatus and can still dress himself. Shimi's problem is that he suffers from an excellent memory and can't forget anything. He remains haunted by his childhood experiment trying on his mother's underwear and feels permanently tainted. Beryl and Shimi meet after the funeral of his brother, Ephraim, and strike up an unlikely relationship with the deceased Ephraim as their mutual connection. Together they discover a new way to live by confiding past experiences, and Shimi is shocked by how easily they can trust each other. Jacobson's appealing tale will delight readers.