Not Far From Dreamland by Val Hennessy

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Not Far From Dreamland by Val Hennessy

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A gloriously funny look at what it means to be getting on in years. I laughed. I cried. I loved it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: June 2015
Publisher: Quartet Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0704373877

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Ronald Tonks has reached that stage in life which I call upper middle age: you've qualified for your pension but not yet got to the free television licence barrier. What Ronald has got is a roof that leaks (there's good reason why his home is called 'the shack'), a dog who is going bald (in patches) and money that's in very short supply. On the plus side he has friends, mostly platonic and usually in much the same boat as Ronald. But are they downhearted? Well, they are occasionally, but mostly they're generously optimistic and out to make the most of what they've got, usually bought from charity shops and jumble sales. Not Far From Dreamland is the story of a year (2012) in the life of Ronald Tonks, his friends and relatives.

When you review a book you've got to do your best to be unbiased: you should look not just at whether or not you enjoyed the book, but your review should reflect whether or not other people might get more (or less) from it than you did - and this is my great problem with Not Far From Dreamland. I'm right in there - in upper middle age with Ronald and friends - facing the same challenges and wondering why bits of my body don't work like they used to. Or don't work at all. Val Hennessy has captured the seventh and eighth decades perfectly. I laughed. I cried. Then I started making a list of those of my friends who would have exactly the same reactions.

But will it have a more universal appeal? You know - I believe it will. Many of the issues apply to any age. Ronald aspires to 'get to know' Daphne rather better, but she's enamoured of a rather disreputable Welsh poet and sees Ronald only as a friend to whom she can unburden herself. He fails to see the value of his (platonic) friendship with Jinxie Wicks. Like many younger people he's part of the sandwich generation - his mother might be in her nineties but she can still find something different for him to worry about every day and his son might be in his forties, but he's come home to roost.

One point which will be recognised by older readers is the challenge of political correctness. We grew up in a time when racial and sexual discrimination was not just rife, it was considered correct and occasionally it is difficult to stop the old attitudes from creeping in. I loved it when Ronald corrected his thoughts so that they were politically correct, but I'll also confess to howling with laughter at some of the less-PC jokes in the book. There's nothing hurtful or offensive, just a neat dissection of the way that the world has changed. I loved it.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag and to mention that if there is a sequel I'll be at the front of the queue - providing that I can get there using my bus pass after nine thirty.

If this book appeals to you I think that you might also enjoy Lillian on Life by Alison Jean Lester - I know that I did.

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Buy Not Far From Dreamland by Val Hennessy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Not Far From Dreamland by Val Hennessy at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Not Far From Dreamland by Val Hennessy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Not Far From Dreamland by Val Hennessy at


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