The Old Joke, By Reina James

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The Independent Culture

Three years ago, Reina (daughter of Sid) James aged 60, said of her first novel, a bleak wartime period piece, This Time of Dying: "I'm absolutely fascinated with the way we care for our dead."

This second work is told through the mind of a retired actress, Mim, whose career is at its ebb, although her husband is intent on staging her comeback. It examines not dissimilar themes - that of ageing and inching towards death - but in a humorous register.

Conversationally told, it is a story of domestic dramas, stylistically more spoken than written, though it might suffer from a lack of emotional intensity as a result.