Staying On by C M Taylor

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Staying On by C M Taylor

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Either a coming-of-old-age story or the tale of a three-quarter life crisis, it's so accurate that I found it deeply depressing.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: October 2018
Publisher: Duckworth Overlook
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0715653371

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Tony Metcalfe is a Yorkshireman through and through and being honest, Yorkshire's where he'd really like to be. You suspect that Scarborough would be perfect, but he's living in a mountain village just beyond the Costa Verde and running a pub. The Viva Espagñe isn't flourishing: Tony would really like to sell it and return to the UK, what with the uncertainty of Brexit and everything, but there are a couple of problems. First off, his wife - Laney - refuses to go back to the UK. She'd have you believe that she's not well, but there's a backstory there that's not being talked about. Then there's the pub, which isn't doing well enough to sell. In fact Tony's cleaning the swimming pools of expats who have left Spain and returned home, in order to make a bit of money to try and make ends at least come in sight of each other, even if they never meet.

It might have gone on like that for a while longer, but Nick - Tony and Laney's son - comes out for a holiday, bringing his wife, Jo, and toddler son, Fred. Young kids never travel light, but Jo's bringing a lot more baggage than that. Tony hopes that this will be the chance to revitalise the bar, but it's not long before painful revelations threaten to tear the family apart.

Staying On is so well written that it depressed me. It catches perfectly the problems of old age - particularly the realisation that 'home' is not a geographical location unless it's the place populated by the people you love. The flip side of that coin is that you can't run away from your problems - wherever you go, there you are, complete with those problems. I felt for Tony, doing his best to run the pub, to keep Laney happy. In every relationship there's one who loves and one who is loved: with Tony and Laney, it's Laney who is loved and Tony who would do anything to make her happy. Tony comes off the page completely clothed (well, apart from that regrettable incident towards the end of the book...) but I never felt that I got to grips with Laney.

There's a black humour in Staying on, but I'm afraid that it didn't touch me: there were occasions when I could have cried at the tragedy of Brexit, at the foolhardiness of people who go to live in a foreign country but make no attempt to master the language and live in an expat enclave and who might eventually have to settle for a flat in Scarborough or a grave in Spain.

I hesitate to sound negative about the book: it's beautifully written by an author who's obviously a keen observer of people, but it made me face the fact that I'm getting old and it touched some raw nerves. It's a book I admired, but didn't enjoy - I suspect that many people will love it.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more about expats, you might enjoy The Boat by Clara Salaman and If You Liked School, You'll Love Work by Irvine Welsh.

Buy Staying On by C M Taylor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Staying On by C M Taylor at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Staying On by C M Taylor at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Staying On by C M Taylor at Amazon.com.

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