Old People

Journal: 071

Same as last time. I’m in Melbourne, finished unloading and Homer hasn’t yet put together a load home for me, so I’ve time on my hands. Same too Covid-wise, restrictions in Victoria mean I can’t visit mum, though it turns out WA, my home state, aren’t being so hardline as last year about iso for us “essential workers”, I had dinner at Milly’s – and spare a thought for her, this week she’s on a 7 day ‘refugee’ diet/fundraiser (I’ll see if I can provide a link).

I should really have posted Such is Life (06) in this space but I didn’t get it fully written up before I left home and may or may not get it done today/tomorrow. SIL is one of those projects we discuss from time to time under the heading of for whom are we writing. I’m happy to be making my case in the way that I am; sometimes when there’s only a few comments you think “well that post failed” but I’m not greedy enough to expect even my most loyal readers to comment 12 times about one book (which they may not have read); I’m taking my cue from Brona’s Moby Dick and Lisa’s Finnegan’s Wake which both I think worked very well – I hope they don’t mind the comparison!

The Old People of the heading, and I suppose you can take as read that’s “old people like me”, is from two books I listened to on the way over, Thomas Keneally’s The Pact (2020) and Joanna Trollope’s An Unsuitable Match (2017). Not that I feel old, even now. Old men wear baggy brown trousers and tweed coats; old men are bent, have trouble walking, have whispy white hair. I see them in the street, reassure myself I’m not them.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late … That’s me!

Poor old Thomas Keneally (1935- ) too refuses to face reality and continues churning out stories with no hint of his early promise as a writer of quality. The Pact in this case is ostensibly an agreement between long-married Australians Paddy and Jenny to end their lives at the time of their own choosing on the Thames Embankment where they first met. Ostensibly because their financial support for their younger son during his long struggle with gambling addiction has driven Jenny to despair. It is she who is determined to die and Paddy must convince her over and over that he is genuine about going with her.

The Pact reads like a checklist of subjects Keneally is interested in – I won’t accuse him of writing for book groups – lapsed Catholicism, getting old and prosperous in Sydney, adult children, continence, the obligatory year in London after uni (which Boris and Scotty from Marketing may have just revived).

There is a very funny scene about something Keneally is clearly worried about, and which I am not, not yet. Paddy out and about in London needs to piss, can’t find anywhere before it’s running down his leg, desperately seeks a new pair of trousers to buy from a sales person who is pretending not to have noticed.

Trollope’s novel is also about an old (ok, in their 60s) couple in love. In her case Rose, a divorcee runs into Tyler, a widower who was keen on her when they were at school half a century earlier. Both have late twentiesh children and Trollope makes points by putting the children into relationships in ways which mirror what Rose and Tyler are doing.

On both sides the children are largely resentful of and feel threatened by their parents’ proposed marriage. I’ve been Tyler a couple of times, and in both cases – my third marriage and a relationship afterwards – my children were largely unconcerned (or were concerned for me rather than for themselves) and the woman’s children were pleased for her and got on well with me. In both cases discussions occurred naturally about the disposition of assets, about what the children would inherit. Rose and Tyler don’t have that discussion and it gradually becomes obvious that Rose is unrealistic in dismissing the fears of her children. Tyler in fact is a pushy bastard and each time he says to Rose, ‘I love you, I only suggest what is best for you’, the reader squirms.

I don’t remember the last Trollope I read except I didn’t like it much. I see on searching she has written one called Sense & Sensibility, which she mentions briefly in this, commenting that one grows from sensibility to sense which accords with my opinion that the original S&S is YA.

Unlike The Pact, An Unsuitable Match is worth reading, not literature but definitely a good beach read.


Thomas Keneally, The Pact (2020) Audible, narrated by Keith Scott, Taylor Owynns, Afterword by Thomas Keneally. 7 hours
Joanna Trollope, An Unsuitable Match (2018). Bolinda, read by Samantha Bond. 9 hrs

Top photo, An excursion into the Victorian Alps

Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night, 1937

Milly: See Ration Challenge Australia 2021


Recent audiobooks

Jacqeline Kent (F, Aust), Vida (2020) – Biog.
Kerry Greenwood (F, Aust), Dead Man’s Chest (2010) – Hist.Fic./Crime
Garth Nix (M, Eng), The Left-Handed Booksellers of London (2020) – YA/Fantasy (1980s alternative timeline)
Marc Levy (M, Fra), All Those Things We Never Said (2008) DNF Ridiculous premise
Kerry Fisher (F, Eng), The Mother I could have Been (2020)
Lee Child (F, Eng), Persuader (2003) – Crime
Herman Koch (M, NL), The Ditch (2016) – disappointing
Lawrence Block (M, USA), Out on the Cutting Edge (1989) – Crime
Sophie Kinsella (F, Eng), Sleeping Arrangements (2001)
Patricia Cornwell (F, NL), Quantum (2019) – SF-ish thriller
Joanna Trollope (F, Eng), An Unsuitable Match (2017)
Thomas Keneally (M, Aust/NSW), The Pact (2020)