Happy Old Me by Hunter Davies

Happy Old Me

Simon & Schuster UK (21 Mar. 2019) | Hardback |291 pages |  4*

Blurb:

On 8th February 2016,Margaret Forster lost her life to cancer of the spine. The days that followed for her husband, Hunter Davies, were carried out on autopilot: arrangements to be made, family and friends to be contacted. But how do you cope after you have lost your loved one? How do you carry on?

As Hunter navigates what it means to be alone again after 55 years of marriage, coping with bereavement and being elderly (he still doesn’t believe he is), he shares his wisdom and lessons he has learnt living alone again. Revealing his emotional journey over the course of one year, as well as the often ignored practical implications of becoming widowed, he learns that, ultimately, bricks and mortar may change but the memories will remain. 

Part memoir, part self-help, Happy Old Me is a fitting, heart-felt tribute to the love of his life and a surprisingly amusing and informative book about an age, and stage in life, which we might all reach someday. The third book in Hunter Davies’ much-loved memoir series, which includes The Co-Op’s Got Bananas and A Life in the Day. 

Hunter Davies wrote Happy Old Me: How to Live a Long Life and Really Enjoy It in 2018 when he was in his eighty-second year. After fifty-five years of marriage he found he suddenly had to cope with living on his own, doing all the ‘domestic stuff he had never bothered to learn’ and get to grips with being old.

It tells of what he did during his first year after Margaret Forster, his wife died and also looks back at their time together and their family and careers. It is so readable, it’s like listening to him talking. I’ve read several of Margaret Forster’s books so it was good to ‘see’ her from his perspective.

I knew less about Hunter Davies, other than that he’s a journalist and has written several books on a variety of subjects. I’m reading The John Lennon Letters, that Davies edited  and my husband is reading his biography of Alfred Wainwright (I’ll read it later) and we have a copy of his book, A Walk Along the Wall, about Hadrian’s Wall (I’ll be reading that later too). Other books by him that interest me are his biographies of the Beatles and of William Wordsworth and also Lakeland: A Personal Journey. 

Amazon tells me that ‘Hunter Davies was at the heart of London culture in the Swinging Sixties, becoming close friends with The Beatles, and especially Sir Paul McCartney. He has been writing bestselling books, as well as widely read columns for over fifty years for major newspapers and magazines.’

In Happy Old Me he writes openly and frankly, with a sense of humour and a zest for life. I really enjoyed it.

Happy Old Me Contents

When was I happiest? People often get asked that, or ask themselves, especially when they get into their eighties, as if all happiness must be in the past, gone for ever. I always say now. And I mean it. I am happy. I am happy to have had my past and I am happy looking forward to tomorrow. (page 267)

WWW Wednesday: 12 February 2020

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

A killing kindnessSaving MisseyCurrently reading: I’m reading A Killing Kindness, a murder mystery, the 6th Dalziel and Pascoe book by Reginald Hill and enjoying it very much.  I’m also reading Saving Missy by Beth Morrey, which I’m also enjoying. It’s a feel good story and very different from A Killing Kindness. Missy Carmichael’s life has become small. Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.

Happy Old Me

Recently Finished: Happy Old Me: How to Live a Long Life and Really Enjoy It by Hunter Davies. This is an account of one year in his life after his wife, Margaret Forster died – poignant, moving and very interesting. I’ll write more about later on.

Reading Next: This is a movable feast, as I rarely decide until the time comes.

It could be The Year Without Summer by  Guinevere Glasfurd. 

Year without summer

Blurb:

1815, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia
Mount Tambora explodes in a cataclysmic eruption, killing thousands. Sent to investigate, ship surgeon Henry Hogg can barely believe his eyes. Once a paradise, the island is now solid ash, the surrounding sea turned to stone. But worse is yet to come: as the ash cloud rises and covers the sun, the seasons will fail.

1816
In Switzerland, Mary Shelley finds dark inspiration. Confined inside by the unseasonable weather, thousands of famine refugees stream past her door. In Vermont, preacher Charles Whitlock begs his followers to keep faith as drought dries their wells and their livestock starve.

In Suffolk, the ambitious and lovesick painter John Constable struggles to reconcile the idyllic England he paints with the misery that surrounds him. In the Fens, farm labourer Sarah Hobbs has had enough of going hungry while the farmers flaunt their wealth. And Hope Peter, returned from the Napoleonic wars, finds his family home demolished and a fence gone up in its place. He flees to London, where he falls in with a group of revolutionaries who speak of a better life, whatever the cost. As desperation sets in, Britain becomes beset by riots – rebellion is in the air.

The Year Without Summer is the story of the books written, the art made; of the journeys taken, of the love longed for and the lives lost during that fateful year. Six separate lives, connected only by an event many thousands of miles away. Few had heard of Tambora – but none could escape its effects.

Or it could be one of my TBRs – I simply don’t know yet.

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

Six Degrees of Separation: from Fleishman is in Trouble to …

I love doing Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Fleishman

This month the chain begins with Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner,  a novel described as ‘a blistering satirical novel about Marriage, Divorce and Modern relationships‘. It’s a book that so many people declare is incredibly wise, a powerful feminist book, with depth, wit, nuance and life, shrewdly observed and and utterly of this moment. It is a book I have not read and also one that I doubt I will read.

Where to go from there? I had trouble deciding!

In the end I decided to go with the word ‘trouble‘ and that made me think of Bill Bryson’s book Troublesome Words, a book about the use of words, which is probably as far removed from Fleishman is in Trouble that you could get. It’s arranged like a dictionary, so a book to dip into rather than one to read straight through. For example if you want to know the difference between ‘that’ and ‘which’ this is the book to go to. And how about starting a sentence with the word ‘and’?  I was taught at school that you should never do that, not so says Bryson.

From Troublesome Words my mind jumped to The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz, as a sentence is made up of words. Rosemary, the wife of wealthy George Barton dies suddenly at her birthday party at a West End Restaurant, the Luxembourg, after drinking a glass of champagne laced with cyanide.

And so onto Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie. Rosemary, the wife of wealthy George Barton dies suddenly at her birthday party at a West End Restaurant, the Luxembourg, after drinking a glass of champagne laced with cyanide.

A birthday party features in Nicola Upson’s Fear in the Sunlight, the fourth novel featuring Josephine Tey. Summer, 1936. The writer, Josephine Tey, joins her friends in the holiday village of Portmeirion in Wales to celebrate her fortieth birthday. Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville, are there to sign a deal to film Josephine Tey’s novel, A Shilling for Candles.

So, my next link is to another book set in Wales, but in the Brecon Beacons not the coast. It’s Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas. It also links back to Fleishman is in Trouble in that it’s about the trouble caused when Selena, Kirsty’s cousin, arrives at their new guesthouse and murder follows.

Finally, another troublesome character called Selena appears in Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. She was a spy whose mission failed – a story of deception, about writers and writing and readers and reading, with multiple stories within stories.

My chain begins and ends with a book about trouble, linked by a book about troublesome words, and murder mysteries involving the use of cyanide, birthday parties, books set in Wales and books with even more troublesome characters – a real mixed bag of connections.

Next month (7 March 2020), we’ll begin with Lucy Treloar’s Wolfe Island, a book that I know nothing about. (Bryson says it’s OK to end  sentence with a preposition).

WWW Wednesday: 29 January 2020

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading: I’m still reading, very slowly, The John Lennon Letters edited by Hunter Davies and The Windsor Story by J Bryan III and Charles V Murphy.

 And I’m also enjoying Hunter Davies’ memoir Happy Old Me: How to Live a Long Life and Really Enjoy It. This is an account of one year in his life after his wife, Margaret Forster died – poignant, moving and very interesting.

Recently Finished: Death Has Deep Roots: a Second World War Mystery by Michael Gilbert. Set in 1950 it’s a mix of courtroom drama, spy novel and an adventure thriller. Victoria Lamartine, a hotel worker, and an ex-French Resistance fighter is on trial for the murder of Major Eric Thoseby, her supposed lover, and alleged father of her dead child. My full review is in this post.

Silence between breathsReading Next: This is a movable feast, as I rarely decide until the time comes.

Yesterday I picked up several books in Barter Books, and am itching to read The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe – Passengers boarding the 10.35 train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston are bound for work, assignations, reunions, holidays or new starts, with no idea that their journey is about to be brutally curtailed.

I did begin reading it whilst having a cup of coffee in Barter Books and the opening chapters make me want to read more.

Or it could be one of my TBRs – I simply don’t know yet.

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

Library Loans 24 January 2020

I regularly borrow books from the library, although I haven’t written about them for a few months. These are the ones I have on loan at the moment:

Lib loans Jan 2020

The Pure Gold Baby by Margaret Drabble. This novel was on the mobile library van shelves and caught my eye because I’ve enjoyed the other books by her that I’ve read. Anna is a child of special, unknowable qualities. She is happy, always willing to smile at the world around her, but she also presents profound challenges. For her mother Jess, still in her early 20s, her arrival will prove life-transforming.

Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England by Thomas Penn, non-fiction about Henry VII. I reserved this after FictionFan recommended it, describing it as: ‘very detailed but well written and not too academic in tone‘. Hilary Mantel is quoted on the cover: ‘Compelling … Fascinating‘. With two such recommendations how could I resist reading it? So I was delighted to find the library has a copy.

The Last Ragged Breath by Julia Keller, the 4th book in her Bell Elkin’s mystery series set in West Virginia. I haven’t read any of her books before but I was reading about her latest book on Kay’s Reading Life and found this book on the shelves when I went to the library yesterday. Royce Dillard doesn’t remember much about the day his parents-and one hundred and twenty-three other souls-died in the 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster. But now Dillard, who lives off the grid with only a passel of dogs for company, is fighting for his life one more time: He’s on trial for murder.

Happy Old Me:How to Live a Long Life and Really Enjoy It by Hunter Davies. This is another book I reserved. Davies is the editor of The John Lennon Letters (which I’m currently reading) and the author of Wainwright: The Biography (which my husband is currently reading and I want to read it too). This is his third autobiographical book, described on the book sleeve as ‘part memoir, part self-help … a moving, uplifting and often amusing account of one year in Hunter Davies’ life, navigating bereavement and finding hope for the future.‘ I’m currently reading it and so far (up to chapter 4) I’m loving it.

I love libraries and have used them all my life (well from the age of 3). At the moment the library service is carrying out a survey about our use of the libraries, how often we borrow books etc, etc  – and especially about our use of the mobile library service, and I fear that cutbacks may follow, so I make sure I use the libraries whilst I still can.

WWW Wednesday: 15 January 2020

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently I’m reading three books:

Charles Dickens oliver twist etcOliver Twist by Charles Dickens, my Classics Club Spin book. It’s one of those books that I think I know the story from watching TV adaptations, but I have never read it. I’ve discovered that I only ‘know’ the beginning of the book up to the part where Oliver is rescued by Mr Brownlow from Fagin’s clutches, only to be snatched back by Nancy. After that the story is totally new to me.

John Lennon LettersI’m also reading The John Lennon Letters edited by Hunter Davies. It includes a brief biography and using almost three hundred of Lennon’s letters and postcards, to relations, friends, fans, strangers, and lovers follows his life more or less chronologically. It’s a large, heavy hardback book, illustrated with photos and reproductions of the letters etc. This is going to be a long-term read for me.

The Windsor StoryThe third book is one I’ve only just started – I’ve been struck by some of the parallels between Edward VIII’s abdication in 1936 in order to marry Wallis Simpson and the current situation of Prince Harry and Meghan in wanting to step back as senior royals, and I remembered I have The Windsor Story by J Bryan III and Charles V Murphy. It looks remarkably comprehensive and is another book that I think will take me a long time to read.

Lady of the ravensThe last book I finished reading is  The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson, historical fiction about about the early years of Henry’s reign as seen through the eyes of Joan Vaux, a lady in waiting to Elizabeth of York, whose marriage in 1486 to Henry united the Houses of Lancaster and York after the end of the Wars of the Roses.  I found this a fascinating book and posted my review a few days ago.

Tinker tailorI have several books lined up to read next including Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carré because over the Christmas period I watched the film starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley, along with Colin FirthTom HardyJohn Hurt and others. I began reading the book years ago and have a bookmark at page 88, but I’ll have to go back to the beginning now.

A killing kindnessBut I’d also like to start A Killing Kindness, the next Dalziel and Pascoe novel, the 6th one in Reginald Hill’s series. It looks good – about Mary Dinwoodie whose body is found choked in a ditch following a night out with her boyfriend, and a mysterious caller phones the local paper with a quotation from Hamlet.

But knowing how long it could be until I start the next book, it could be something completely different!

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

My Friday Post: The John Lennon Letters edited and with an Introduction by Hunter Davies

Book Beginnings Button

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I’m reading The John Lennon Letters edited and with an Introduction by Hunter Davies.

John Lennon

The reaction of John Lennon to most things, whether joy or anger, fear or loathing, fun or fury, was to write it down. He responded with words, not just music.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

30879-friday2b56These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

An organized Beatles’ fan club existed long before they had received any national attention or had even produced a record, which is surprising, but shows the extent of their success and popularity when on paper they had achieved so little. From 1962, they were writing lots of letters on fan club notepaper.

Blurb:

A lifetime of letters, collected for the first time, from the legendary The Beatles musician and songwriter John Lennon

John Lennon is one of the world’s greatest-ever song writers, creator of ‘Help!’, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, ‘Imagine’ and dozens more. Now, his letters have been collected and published, illuminating as never before the intimate side of a private genius.

Hunter Davies, author of the only authorised biography of The Beatles, has tracked down almost three hundred of Lennon’s letters and postcards – to relations, friends, fans, strangers, lovers and even to the laundry. Some of the letters are tender, informative, funny, angry and abusive, and some are simply heart-breaking – from his earliest surviving thank-you note, written when he was ten, to his last scribbled autograph given on 8 December 1980, the day he was shot, aged forty.

~~~

A trip down memory lane!

Have you read this book? What did you think?