The Carer: less heartwarming and less of a joy to read than I thought

What is this about?: Phoebe and Robert become suspicious of  the forever cheerful Mandy, their father’s new carer.

What else is this about?: In reality, this is about two self absorbed adult children, who seeing how well Mandy and their father are getting on and the things they share realise stuff about their own lives. It’s as incredibly boring as it sounds.


From the bestselling author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Tulip Fever, a deliciously funny, poignant and wry novel, full of surprising twists and turns.

Unputdownable, fun and tender with characters that jump off the page. Perfection’ Marian Keyes

James is getting on a bit and needs full-time help. So Phoebe and Robert, his middle-aged offspring, employ Mandy, who seems willing to take him off their hands. But as James regales his family with tales of Mandy’s virtues, their shopping trips, and the shared pleasure of their journeys to garden centres, Phoebe and Robert sense something is amiss. Is this really their father, the distant figure who never once turned up for a sports day, now happily chortling over cuckoo clocks and television soaps?

Then something happens that throws everything into new relief, and Phoebe and Robert discover that life most definitely does not stop for the elderly. It just moves onto a very different plane – changing all the stories they thought they knew so well.

I consider the movie of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and absolute favourite for the warmth and heart in every minute. I suppose my problem was to assume the book was as good as the movie, and by extension The Carer would be awesome too.

Yeah, not the first time I made that mistake, probably not the last.

Phoebe and Robert are two self-absorbed twits wrapped up in their own worlds, so they get a in-house carer for their father, James. Mandy is by all accounts a godsend. She brings life to their dad who seemed to be withering away. She takes him out into the village, helps him meet new people and get a new lease on life.

Meanwhile, Phoebe is trying to convince herself that her relationship with a guy (think hippie to the nth degree) is worthwhile, and he isn’t really treating her like shit. And Robert is having a mid-life crisis, and writing what sounds like the most boring novel ever. He has a more successful wife, and on some level resents it.

I wish I could say I found them endearing or charming, or their lines filled with snark less grating than they were, but I really don’t. I find the last para in the blurb problematic because it says to me that something changes for James now, something that makes his life better, and there really isn’t — the something happened years ago, and James is just now finding out the consequences.

This was a bitter disappointment. I kept reading hoping I would find the fun and tenderness in that tagline up there, but I really didn’t. The story that should have been told was the relationship between Mandy and James. Instead they were there to help Phoebe and Robert deal with their mid-life crises I guess.


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