This was something nobody talked about: how death could make you petty. And how you had to find a new arrangement among your friends, shuffling around the gap of the lost one, all of you suddenly mystified by how to be with one another. p 7
This is a story of four women, friends for forty years, with all that entails. A deep knowledge and understanding of each other, as well as a level of judgement and irritation. Now Sylvie, something of a peace maker, has died, mourned by all, and they have arranged to go to her beach house, where they have had many good times, and clear it out so her partner can sell it.
The three friends who are left, all in their seventies, are wildly different in their financial circumstances and living arrangements.
Jude, often the disapproving narrator, has been a restauranteur, and seems financially secure, but there is some question as to whether this is through her own work or through the generosity of her friend Daniel. We gradually come to learn of the nature of her relationship with Daniel, but from the first Jude’s most striking characteristic is her belief in her own capacity to work hard and get things done, and her low opinion of her friends in this regard.
After her shower, though…already some little flecks of annoyance with Wendy began creeping in. It was like dipping a hand into a pocket and searching the seams with your fingers; there would always be some tiny irritant crumbs if she wanted to find them. Why, for example, had Wendy refused a lift, insisting on driving up in that terrible shitbox of hers? p6
Adele, a once successful actress, but now in deep financial trouble, is the fourth member of the group. She is the one who lives by her charm, always assumes she is entitled to the best bedroom, and who cannot be relied on to pull her weight. Add to the mix another very unpopular (and uninvited) guest, Wendy’s ancient, demented, dying dog Finn, and the weekend is ripe for conflict.
The dark smudges of his clouded eyes brimmed with liquid, two mud pools in snow. His muzzle was grubby too, the once-creamy fur stained and brown. His mouth hung open, black rubber lips slack, rippled. This was what happened to animals, and to humans: he was all failure and collapse, all decay. p88
This account of friends coming to terms with death and aging is deeply absorbing. And somehow, as things play out, the two most powerless members of the group, Adele and Finn, allow the friends to find some kind of consolation for the events that come crashing down upon them during the course of this weekend.
The moon appeared now and then between sweeping clouds, and in those moments of cold light Wendy saw this: my life has not been what I believed it to be. p243
An absorbing read with great humour and understanding that rings very true to me at this point in my life. Much to reflect upon.