George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle and Anna Aitken (translator)

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George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle and Anna Aitken (translator)

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: George (aged 83) and young whippersnapper neighbour Charles (76) decide to do the Tour de France, albeit by car. En route George discovers friendship, texting and a lot more besides. A beguilingly charming little tale of discovery, smiles and poignancy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 192 Date: March 2015
Publisher: Gallic Books
ISBN: 978-1908313737

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George loves the Tour de France so when his over protective daughter goes way for an extended holiday the time is right to do it himself. Being 83 there will have to be some concessions, using a car rather than a bike for a start and he'll take his neighbour Charles (a stripling at 76) with him. He'll also take his mobile phone since his landline has been diverted to it so no one knows he's gone. Yes, good luck with that George!

Like Rachel Joyce before her, French writer Caroline Vermalle started out as a BBC producer and that's not the two ladies' only connection. Despite being different nationalities, (Caroline is French) both authors have accrued fame and fiction debut via senior citizens' road trips. In the case of Rachel it was of course the wonderful Harold Fry. Now, (for the first time in English since French publication in 2008), we can also follow Caroline's independently minded pensioner, George, with relish. Both heroes may be of a certain age but each story is an original slice of charm in its own right

Indeed there is no need to fear that George is a Harold-alike (or vice versa). He's not only got a different personality, the cause of his family hassle is absent throughout the story. (As Harold fans will remember, his trouble and strife appeared at regular intervals.) In place of George's daughter and lifetime bane, on the other end of the phone is Adele, granddaughter and film runner working across the Channel in the UK; remote enough not to be an obstacle during her granddad duty.

In fact rather than impede and pester, Adele adds to the charm. Her mother has given her strict instructions to keep tabs on George so it doesn't take her too long to suss that he's not on his sofa watching TV. Following her shock there develops a wonderful relationship in which George learns to text (creating a guffaw or two as he learns the lingo) and Adele learns about someone she'd previously taken for granted. (That's not trite and sentimental despite how I just made it sound by the way, although tissues will be required!)

George also learns a lot about his travelling companion, neighbour Charles. Between them there are some great moments of elderly disgruntlement as well as surprise revelations. Yes, definitely need for tissues!

Going back to comparisons, George may not experience as much as Harold as this novel is shorter. However, Caroline packs a punch as she demonstrates that it's never too late to learn about life, others or to take that jump into the wished for unknown we've always promised ourselves. Also – and most importantly – in the showing, we also fall in love with a dear, cantankerous adventurer before whom we'd never have guessed that a happy birthday text could bring a lump to the throat and a leap to the heart. (You're right, that's another comment that shouldn't be so sentimental!)

Thank you so much to the folks at Gallic books for providing us with a copy for review.

Further Reading: If this appeals then do please also spend time with Harold and Rachel Joyce's companion novel The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. If you're already a fan, it's been a good period in literary history for senior heroes, for instance Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey is most definitely recommended.

Buy George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle and Anna Aitken (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle and Anna Aitken (translator) at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle and Anna Aitken (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle and Anna Aitken (translator) at Amazon.com.


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