At ‘The Hollyhocks’ old people’s home, the inhabitants are ‘waiting for the scythe’. But while they are waiting…Lady Celia is running a blackmailing business on the side, Mr Cross keeps a tally of fellow residents’ deaths on the back of his wardrobe, and then there is the rabid old Scots nationalist, and Mrs Green, a woman with a mysterious past. Hardly surprising in this environment that Mrs Bellamy decides she can’t take any more and slits her throat. When Matron hushes it up because it would be bad for business, Lady Celia sees an opportunity to expand her blackmailing operation. Meanwhile two new incomers disturb the life of the home further; Mrs Feinberg, a sprightly Jewish woman of whom the other residents are immediately suspicious, and the elegant Mr Rufus. Hidden pasts, unusual sexual preferences and wickedly dark humour are mixed to delicious effect in Bernice Rubens’ wonderful novel.
“Hilarious … intelligent and funny, Ruben s’ splendid prose is untainted by phoney sentiment … read it and don’t weep.”
“A vision of old age that owes nothing to political correctness … honest and humane.”
“Rubens is compassionately eloquent. She also, as always, gleefully extracts comedy from the most unlikely sources.”
“At once taboo-breakingly funny and sentiently profound … astonishing.”