Do you remember when you were a child and there was no limit to your imagination? When you would come up with the craziest stories and nothing was really impossible. When you would question the status quo, not to fight it, but just because you didn’t know what status quo means and you didn’t really have to know?
This is how this book feels like. I read it first when I was a teenager, so probably around twenty years ago and I loved it. This was exactly the kind of stories I’ve been coming up with together with my best friend at the time. We even wrote a novel at some point (it was probably 25 pages long, but it had us laughing to tears every time we read it). When I read it my interest in art has already started so I knew Leonora Carrington was a surrealist painter, even though back then with the internet only just starting (yes, I am that old, I even remember not having a landline at home) it was not easy to find her paintings.
It is a story of Marian Weatherby, a 92-years old lady, living with her son’s family and dreaming of going to Lapland. Our story starts when her best friend Carmela gives her a hearing trumpet as a gift. Marian then immediately overhears the conversation of her son and his wife planning to send her to a care home. Upset she speaks to Carmela and they plot the most extravagant ways of escape to save Marian. She does end up in the home nonetheless. But it is no ordinary care home, as her son had limited funds she ends up in a place where houses are shaped like shoes and birthday cakes. With a painting of Winking Abbess, a host of other older ladies all very much active and busy, if not always completely sane. But then who is.
As the story progresses we experience a case of poisoning, Queen Bee showing up, magical rituals, the gate to of the underworld opening in the basement, the new ice age. There is nothing that cannot happen and why should there be. The characters are lively, funny and a bit otherworldly, each of them with their own crazy backstory. The story moves fast and takes you for a journey outside of what is possible or realistic, and it is so much fun. On the second reading, the book had me in giggles again. Marian and Carmela’s sharp dead-pan observations, other characters being either obsessed with the religion of with sex, the rebellion of the care home inhabitants. All of it somehow comes together into an extremely funny dreamy picture, that makes the old age sound like a lot of fun.
If you need a book to remind you of what unleashed imagination is capable of, a book that will make you laugh crazy on the public transport, a book that will be like a breath of fresh air, go for it. It is not perfect, it is not a deep philosophical read, but it does convey a message, to remember that life is what we make it. Whatever the circumstances we can have fun if we choose to. I’m happy a reread it again. If I had to make a comparison this is 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window, only better, more feminist and even more sticking it to the man aka reality.