Review: No! I Don't Need Reading Glasses! By Virginia Ironside. Quercus £14.99

 

Author and agony aunt Virginia Ironside has turned her attention to the travails of the "seasoned" older woman.

In a successful one-woman show, Growing Old Disgracefully, and in a previous comic novel, No! I Don't Want to Join a Bookclub!, she examined such geriatric gems as atrophic sex, receding gums and the late-life pleasures of gardening and granny-dom. In this second instalment of the diaries of Marie Sharp, she braves yet more taboos – revealing the secret of a good death and the fringe benefits of a discreet face-lift.

Marie is now in her mid-sixties, and her body requires almost as much "maintenance" as her crumbling west London terrace. Not only is she a slave to her own appointments, but her diary is crammed with reminders to check up on the results of friends' X-rays, scans and trips to the oncologist. Most seriously in need of attention, however, is boyfriend Archie – the aristocratic widower she met at the end of volume one.

After several happy years with Archie – "cuddly nights" and weekends on his Devonshire estate – Marie spots worrying changes in her tweedy inamorato. Of late he's taken to calling her "Philippa" – the name of his long-dead wife, and his slow decline becomes the central drama of the book. Ironside's portrait of his last months in a posh, but eerily antiseptic, nursing home is something of a call to arms.

Ironside once again serves up a charming mix: gossip, revelations and acerbic aperçus. Readers will enjoy the return of Marie's best friend Penny, and beloved grandson, Gene. Temporarily whisked off to New York by his careerist parents, the five-year-old and his expectant face pop up throughout, courtesy of Skype. Despite becoming a convert to the non-slip bath-mat, there's life in our feisty heroine yet. True to her baby-boomer roots, Marie finds herself getting involved with a local protest group and even falling in lust with a narcissistic younger man. Old enough to read the warning signs, she's still young enough not to care.

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