I've just finished reading Virginia Ironside's latest novel, rather imaginatively titled No! I Don't Want to Join a Bookclub. I bought it while browsing at my local bookstore, on the basis that I liked the sound of the first paragraph (a selection method I often use for books I know nothing about). Well, what can I say, other than it's been the first time in a long, long time that I've enjoyed a book so much *and* identified so closely with its main character. Marie Sharp is refusing to take old age lying down (quite literally, as she's thinking of giving up sex). We follow her life via her diary for almost two years, during which time she turns 60, becomes a grandmother, acquires a lodger, loses friends, grumbles about everything and ultimately, falls in love. Ironside's writing is witty, funny and engaging, and on several occasions I laughed out loud, thinking Marie really is so much like me, and I'll probably be exactly like her in 30 years or so.
To give you an idea of the style of the book, here is one of my favourite extracts:
(Marie, a Londoner through and through, has been invited to spend a weekend in the country. She's arrived and is now getting ready for dinner.)
A huge array of parties had been arranged, and, it seemed, dozens of other people were staying, and as I dressed for dinner, my heart sank. I would have to meet People from the Country. They hear you come from London and before you know it they're asking if you've been to the theatre recently. In my experience hardly anyone in London ever goes to the theatre. The theatre is full of tourists, Americans and People from the Country who think that going to the theatre is a sophisticated London thing to do. Like lectures on Chinese glazing at the Royal Academy. Most of my friends in London rarely go to the theatre or lectures, but People from the Country can tell you whether Simon Russell-Beale's performance of Hamlet at "the National", as they call it, was better than Ian McKellen's Lear at "the Vic", and, worse, take a whole evening explaining why.
Sometimes I feel like asking if they've mucked out any good pigs recently, or turned over any fields to arable. But I, unlike country people talking to Londoners, am too polite.
I *am* Marie Sharp. Not in 30 years' time, but now. OMG.