A Certain Age by Lynne Truss

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A Certain Age by Lynne Truss

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Twelve monologues from the classic BBC Radio 4 series of the same name brought into book form to delight everyone who enjoys this format.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: February 2007
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
ISBN: 978-1861978790

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Through one long cold, dark night I sat up with a sick dog and I read Lynne Truss' A Certain Age. Six men and six women each have their own tales to tell and the stories always say far more than the teller realises. You might have heard the monologues on BBC Radio 4 in 2002 and 2005 but there is a certain joy in having them on paper in front of you - that way you can go back and savour the elegant plot twists and little quirks of character which speak so loud.

When originally broadcast the first series comprised the women's tales and the second belonged to the men, but in the book the stories alternate, giving an excellent balance and making the book one which would appeal equally to both men and women. The people whose stories are told are familiar to us all -'The Brother', 'The Son' or 'The Mother', but each has a strange twist. Take for instance 'The Married Man'. James Dance is a writer and philanderer. He's convinced that no one suspects what he's doing but he's also completely unaware of how he's being deceived. Or there's 'The Daughter'. Judy stays at home to look after her ageing father, but then working wasn't really convenient because she has long hair. "Hair this long and fine takes three or four hours every morning to dry naturally. Ergo you can't really go to work." Just how far will her father go to make certain that she has no friends or admirers?

It would have been easy for the monologues to be formulaic, but this hasn't happened. Each one has freshness, as though the idea had never been used before. It must have taken a great deal of effort - and talent - to get completely inside the skin of a character and develop it so fully in the space of about 15 pages. The writing is elegant and the ear for dialogue has been finely tuned. It's a joy to read.

The monologue in this form - speaking directly to the listener or the reader - is not as old as might be thought. Most monologues in earlier literature were directed at another character and, surprisingly enough, the earliest exponent of this form seems to be Alan Bennett with his Talking Heads. If I had one difficulty in reading A Certain Age it was that I kept thinking of Alan Bennett and making slightly unfair comparisons. These monologues are not quite as good, but then Bennett is the master of such writing and he makes it look effortless. Lynne Truss is very good, but if I had to try and put my finger on the difference I'd say that she lacks Bennett's edge of acidity, that feeling that he could be unpleasant but would prefer not to be.

I don't like short stories - I tend to think of them as ideas which never quite made it to book-length form - and I've lost count of the number of times that I've read one story and never bothered with the rest. It's a tribute to the strength and quality of this book that after I'd read one story I was keen to get on to the next. Each monologue held me completely and tempted me to read more.

There was just one story that I thought, for a moment, was far-fetched. Jo is 'The Cat Lover' and she prefers to spend her holiday in bed with Buster purring gently at her side. She's using her mobile phone to convince her friend that she's actually on holiday in the south of France. Then I reflected that I'd just tempted my dog to another bowl of warm chicken stock and gently adjusted the blanket around her shoulders, before I returned to my chair and my book. I'd have been in bed myself but Rosie was lying on the quilt and I hadn't the heart to move her.

My thanks to the publishers, Profile Books, for sending this wonderful book.

You might also like to have a look at Cat out of Hell by Lynne Truss but I have to warn you that our reviewer wasn't convinced. You might appreciate The Ice Age by Kirsten Reed but we had our reservations.

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Buy A Certain Age by Lynne Truss at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Certain Age by Lynne Truss at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy A Certain Age by Lynne Truss at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Certain Age by Lynne Truss at Amazon.com.


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