There were some people in the word who were simply good. They might have a noddy dog in their car but that simply meant they weren’t his type. And what was so great about his type anyway? (143)
What a cunning book, skewering just the people who read books like this (people like me). Phoebe and Robert, the children of a distinguished particle physicist, are only too glad to have vulgar Mandy as their widowed father’s carer when he can’t manage on his own. Mandy from Solihull, the casually-racist Daily Mail reader who likes nothing better than a trip to the shopping mall, who calls their dignified father “Jimmy” and “Pops” and has him happily watching lowest-common denominator TV:
That Rolls-Royce of a brain seemed to be dwindling into discussions about retail outlets and chocolate mousse.
But their father James seems to be enjoying his life with Mandy. Phoebe and Robert, a bit ashamed of their snobbish response to her, try to look the other way even when she seems to be snooping into James’ private papers. They learn that a former patient left her a flat. James starts to look a bit shifty, and it emerges accidentally that he and Mandy have visited his solicitor.
Just when you think you might know where it’s going, the book does a very fancy trick and you, the smug middle-class reader, are left with egg on your face. The outcome is not free of cliché, but there’s thought and humour in it, and a nice side-act involving Phoebe’s hippie lover Torren and his knowledge of Welsh dialect. And some wise reflections on the youth of today:
His children were a good deal less fucked-up than he and Phoebe. Yet they’d had it so much harder. For what a world they’d been bequeathed. Sky-high rents, global warming, no jobs to be found and robots taking over anyway, species wipeouts, nowhere to park.
Yet they remained optimistic, kind to their friends – much kinder, he was sure, than he was to his. Loyal, non-judgmental, thoroughly decent human beings, the world was lucky to have them. (101)