Cover Image: Grandmothers

Grandmothers

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We're not used to reading about older women; especially not grandmothers,. Certainly not as the protagonists in thoughtful dramas about family, ageing, regret, grief, and self-discovery. For that alone,  this is an unusual novel. We have three grandmothers (though strictly speaking Minna is in loco grandparentis) trying to manouevre a world which largely ignores them unless they have money to spend on school fees, or can help out with childcare. For once, the parental figures are largely absent, as Vickers concentrates on the rather wonderful relationships between grandmother and grandchild. Blanche (the glamorous one) is grieving the loss of her husband Ken, but is clearly liberated too from the rather pedestrian marriage she had with him. She flirts with shoplifting - and the security guard - to get her thrills, before settling on a trip to France and discovering her creativity - and faith too, in some ways. Minna is gingerly coming back to life after a rather different loss - of true love, and the opportunity to become a parent. A neighbour's child, Rose, becomes her focus and lifts her from her self-imposed isolation. Probably the most recognisable grandparent-grandchild relationship is Billy and his grandmother Nan - we met her first when she's choosing her own coffin. She has a wonderfully exciting secret life, a failed marriage behind her, and a lost love from decades before, which has shaped her entirely. 
We learn about the children approaching adolescence: their hopes and fears, and how they're supported or let down by the people who are bringing them up. Where the grandmother comes in seems a matter of sheer luck. Lucky too - for the plot at least - is that a series of coincidences bring the three grandmothers together - and all are somewhat bemused to be making friends so late in life. A thoughtful story about family in its many guises.
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Another great Salley Vickers novel, She really does characterisation well and I loved the way the separate stories all linked together.
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This is a little gem of a book. It is about three women, one who has close contact with her grandson, one who is forbidden to see her grandchildren, and a third who is a surrogate grandmother to a little girl. The story is very well written, and has you laughing, crying, and feeling angry by turns.
It is a story that will stay with me for a long time, because it is so true of today’s society and it’s broken families. 
The characters are solid and believable. This author deserves great praise for this book, it is one of the best that I have read in a long time.
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Three different women find their paths crossing. Wealthy Blanche has developed a compulsion for shoplifting after being banned from seeing her grandchildren. Poet Nan is planning her funeral and isn’t afraid to speak her mind, but she has a blind spot when it comes to her grandson.  And then finally there’s shy Minna, who’s in danger of losing the only person she really cares about. A beautiful, quiet book that looks at family life in all its complexities.
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A very disappointing book from a respected writer.  Poor characterisation and weak  story.  Not recommended.
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This is a great book, filled with really interesting and unusual characters.  The ending was a little predictable, but on the whole, I so enjoyed it.
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The title describes the book. In particular three grandmothers, each unique and loved by their grandchildren and children, although all very different. Nan looks after Billy and both have a healthy respect for death, with Nan choosing her own coffin and having it delivered to her home to try it out before she needs it. Blanche is at the opposite end of the economic scale, having the means to live well, which includes the ability to afford alcohol, which her grandchildren report back to their parents and results in her son banning her from seeing the grandchildren.. Minna hasn't had children or grandchildren, but has either been adopted by or has adopted a local girl who visits Minna regularly because she feels she understands her better than her Mother does. In all cases, it is this feeling that the Grandmother status allows women, who as Mothers will have been distracted and busy with the responsibility of installing in their children what is right and proper, yet once Grandmotherhood is achieved, the main focus is on being yourself. So although they all realise they shouldn't be allowing their grandchildren to do as they want, there is still a sense of 'when I am old I will wear purple'  as the elder age reached also brings with it a desire to do as all the women want. 
We meet each of these women separately, but their worlds collide when (minor) dramas bring them together we see each of them realising that the past still has a huge impact on their present.
The book isn't earth shattering, but a wonderful depiction of lives lived, some regrets, some determination of still achieving more, but most importantly of women now doing what they want, having had to please others in previous years..
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I really enjoyed this, especially as a grandfather who has recently had the pleasure of 3 of his grandchildren and their parents staying with us. Very wise, subtle, beautifully written. A few echoes of Miss Garnet's Angel, but none the worse for that.
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I had a particularly strong bond with my grandmother and was delighted to see a book about this very subject written by the wonderfully talented Sally Vickers, whose previous books are well worth reading if you haven’t done so already.

The book focuses on the relationships between three women (Nan, Minna and Blanche) and their grandchildren or grandchildren by proxy, and by the end of the book with each other too. 

I loved the role played by Nan and it most definitely made me reflect on my own experience with my grandmother and recognise her as a person in her own right, not just as a caregiver but as an individual. This book wonderfully demonstrates how full of life and experiences are grandmothers are.
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Given its theme, this could have been so much better. It’s a story about 3 very different grandmothers whose lives and grandchildren become unexpectedly entangled. The bond between the generations is explored in some depth but remains unconvincing. I assume we are supposed to sympathise with the grandmothers but we are not helped to this as one of them shoplifts and is unsurprisingly condemned by her daughter-in-law for drink driving with the grandchildren in the car. Admittedly the parents don’t come out of it all with flying colours either but these grandmothers certainly have their foibles, however well-meaning and loving they are. There are far too many sub-plots – a sinister man whom two of the children meet at Kew Gardens (not sure why he is introduced), a mother having to come to terms with her son’s homosexuality (nothing to do with the grandchildren). And there are some cultural missteps that a bit of research could have avoided. I don’t think anyone goes to McDonalds for tea and “biscuits”. And would an 11-year old go to the Kew gift shop and buy her mother a pashmina and her friend’s grandmother an expensive book of Marianne North reproductions unprompted? In fact the portrayal of the children consistently failed to hit the right note, with them being either too naïve or too knowing. The ending is certainly contrived and again failed to convince me. There’s no originality or nuance here and yet Vickers’ early books were full of originality and nuance. Think Miss Garnett’s Angel, for example. It’s as though she’s now just going through the motions and like her last novel, The Librarian (which I couldn’t even finish - at least this is a reasonably pleasant and cosy read if you like that sort of thing) I found this latest offering very disappointing and unsatisfying.
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Enjoyable feel good story but forgettable. Nan's character is  very well crafted: a strong, no-nonsense female who positively impacts so many. But the story line was forced: too many chance encounters that I don't see happening in real life.
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I first heard about this novel when it was listed somewhere as a must-read. Admittedly, that is how I find many of my reads, but Grandmothers is a novel I potentially wouldn't have picked up otherwise. I'm veyr glad I was inspired to, however, as Grandmothers was a surprisingly heartwarming read. Thanks to Penguin Books, Vintage and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Grandmothers don't get half as much attention in fiction as they deserve. Fairy tales are full of dead mothers, evil step-mothers and kind godmothers, but grandmothers are rather sparse on the ground. I struggled to think of a novel I'd read where grandmothers, or grandparents for that matter, played a major role. One of the things I've enjoyed about living in China is seeing how interconnected the different generations of Chinese families are. Grandparents are very involved in the lives of their grandchildren, perhaps more so than where I grew up and I can definitely see the benefits of that. Of course there are downsides to that as well, as the very reason that grandparents are so involved is because the parents themselves have to work a lot and can therefore not be as present themselves. I also have extremely fond memories of my own grandparents and it is undeniable they played a large role in making me who I am. I find myself remembering things about my grandmothers on an almost daily basis, which both adds to my missing them but also soothes the ache of it.

In Grandmothers Vickers introduces us to three different "grandmothers". While only two of them are technically related to the children they care for, each of them is infused with the stubborn love and dedication that I remember from my own grandmothers. The strongest personality of the three is Nan, a secret poet with a tragic past who is perhaps unconventional in the lessons she teaches her grandson. Blanche is losing her way when the novel first starts, but as she retraces part of her history she connects more fully with herself once again. Finally, there's Minna, who provides a safe haven for her surrogate granddaughter and consistently tries her very hardest. Grandmothers is a beautiful insight into the life of women we don't often hear about. At times Grandmothers does veer into the unbelievable. The grandmothers don't know each other at the beginning of the novel, yet become connected through the oddest of circumstances. It gives the novel an almost fairy tale-like feeling which disconnects it slightly from reality. There is also a sense of, perhaps, entitlement to Vickers' grandmothers that I can imagine will rankle parental readers.

Grandmothers is very readable, largely because Vickers' writing is very uncomplicated. Although the feelings she discusses run deep, her protagonists are children and the elderly, which seems to have led her to a rather calm and simple reading style. There are some very imaginative moments in this novel which were beautifully described and were definite highlights for me. I read Grandmothers in a single day, settled down with a cup of tea and stormy weather outside and it made the perfect, cozy read. It is easy to agree with the grandmothers' sentiment that they are undervalued, even if upon a second look some fo their behavior is rather questionable. Nan, Blanche and Minna aren't always likeable or right and although this adds some depth to the story, it isn't enough to make it a novel whose ideas linger on after the last page.

Vickers' story kept me hooked, even if I didn't feel entirely engaged by it. Part of the novel's attraction is a sense of nostalgia, as many of us have grandparents we fondly remember. Grandmothers, however, did leave me wondering as to what it's message was.
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My thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for my advanced copy.

I was really pleased to find an interesting novel that features older women of worth. The story started off really reeling me in but at times I felt that needless details were added for 'padding'.

Nan was the main character and it was obvious from the beginning where the plot was heading with her. I tried to like her but she really was a difficult woman. She was embittered and taciturn and I don't really know why her friends pushed through this, especially as they, unlike the reader, were not aware of what tragedy lay behind her behaviour, and she didn't exactly have a heart of gold so could be forgiven for her attitude.

The end came somewhat abruptly and felt unnecessary, however, I became so invested in the charaters that I would love to see a sequel.
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This is a beautifully written story of family and friendship, particularly with grandchildren and grandparents. As with all of Sally Vickers work the detail and description goes hand in hand with the storyline about growing old.  A minor character is one of the characters from The Liberian which I had recently read and though it’s not necessary to read as they are both stand alone stories it was nice to “meet her again”.
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This is a beautifully written book about different generations, particularly three children and their "grandmothers".  The backgrounds and family situations of each character differ and it is interesting to see how they all meet up as initially there seems to be no obvious connection.  Some thought provoking incidents.
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As a fan of Salley Vickers' books I was delighted to receive this book from Penguin. As a grandmother myself I believe grandparents and grandchildren have very special relationships and this is borne out in this tale. There are many poignant moments and although there are some far-fetched scenes it does not detract from the story. Each of the three grandmothers have their own past and their own sadness which are explored sympathetically. A lovely, poignant tale well written as ever by this author.
Many thanks to Netgalley/Salley Vickers/Penguin Books UK for a digital copy of this title. All opinions expressed are my own.
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This book started so well and I had great hopes for it, having enjoyed Salley Vickers’s other books.  As a woman of a certain age (certainly could be a grandmother!),  I was looking for an exploration of age and family relationships.  While it did deal with these issues there was a veneer of unreality that was never quite breached.
Nan, Minna and Blanche are the eponymous grandmothers and their three stories develop and eventually overlap.  I wanted to read on and see how the book developed and there is no doubt that Salley Vickers writes beautiful prose.  I loved the descriptions of the Delacroix and the Rembrandt paintings and it sent me scurrying to see the images on-line.  It’s just that the 3 women did not seem real; their relationships with the rest of their families jarred.  Where was the proper discussion of Blanche’s drink driving with her grand-children in the car?  I would never have let her drive children again either!  Where was the development of Nan’s son’s homosexuality – and her acceptance of it – with him? I understand that it is sometimes easier to relate to grandchildren rather than one’s children but this felt false.
I also, like other reviewers felt the ending was rushed and a bit schmaltzy.  Can one just decide to lie down and die?  I understand feeling like it – but that’s not the same as achieving it. 
It’s a sweet gentle book that keeps you turning the pages but sadly ultimately unsatisfying.
Thanks to Random House and Net Galley for a copy.
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Thanks Netgalley and the Publisher.  Not sure what to write about this as the book was okay but really full of nothing.
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What a delight this book is - a warm, beautifully written and absorbing read for all parents and grandparents. Sally Vickers draws her characters with compassion and understanding and the book has many gently humorous moments too. It is an exploration of relationships - grandmothers and grandchildren, mothers and their adult children, children with each other, parents going through demanding times in their marriages, and the developing friendships between the grandmothers themselves, with all their own quirks and habits - and I should know, as a grandmother myself! The children are a delight in their developing personalities, and Vickers shows a real understanding of their loves and fears. The book has its darker moments, as all relationships must, but the balance is always towards the positive. I can not recommend this book highly enough as an absorbing, tender and warm-hearted read.
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Ohh I loved this book so much, partly I was always very close to my grandmother from my childhood. It really touched my heart. 
It's an emotional, and entertaining story of three old women. All these women have their own realtionshipd with their families, secrets, etc. Since there are 3 POVs, it was inevitable to fall into the point that some were more interesting than others. But, nevertheless I enjoyed this book a lot. 

I'd highly recommend. 
Thanks a lot to NetGalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.
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