Customer Review

TOP 500 REVIEWER
Reviewed in Australia on 3 March 2021
5★
“‘Am I in it?’ she asked.

‘If you were, would you want to read it?’

‘Of course!’

‘Then no, you’re not in it.’

‘I am in it, really, aren’t I?’

‘Who can say?’ I said.

She got off my bed and slipped her shoes back on.

‘If I’m in it, can you make me taller?’

I just gave her a look.

‘Goodnight, Lenni,’ she said. And she left me alone with my diary. To write about her.”

“New Nurse” has been visiting Lenni in the May Ward. She is Lenni’s favourite nurse, a flamboyant woman whom Lenni met when New Nurse escorted her to the chapel. She had

“cherry red hair, which clashed with her blue uniform like there was no tomorrow. She’d only been on the May Ward a matter of days and she was nervous, especially around the airport children …

I loved this one! I wouldn’t change a thing.

Lenni is 17 and is in the May Ward of the Glasgow Princess Royal Hospital because she has a terminal disease. Ooops, sorry. Lenni tells us staff are supposed to say “life-limiting” now instead of terminal – and anyway, terminal makes her think of an airport terminal. Note her reference to the airport children, above. She is bright and funny and openly questioning of everything.

Her interactions with the hospital chaplain, the gentle Father Arthur, are both amusing and thought-provoking for both of them. She visits the chapel only because she has discovered they have to let her go there if she wants to – religious reasons, and all that. A brief escape from the May Ward.

“‘So tell me, Lenni, what brings you to the chapel today?’

‘I’m thinking about buying a second-hand BMW.’

He didn’t know what to do with that, so he picked up the Bible from the pew beside him, thumbed through it without looking at the pages, and put it down again.”

Poor, lovely Father Arthur. He is a delight. Then there is The Temp. The story is told from Lenni’s point of view, except she tells us about The Temp from the third person point of view, and for some reason, it works.

The Temp plays an important role because she wants to open an Art Room for the patients, and this is where Lenni meets 83-year-old Margot.

Their combined age of 100 inspires a plan to produce 100 pieces of art to celebrate each year, and as they paint, they share stories from their past. Lenni’s are of her early childhood in Sweden, while Margot’s cover a much longer life history.

Some memories come easily, but some are difficult, especially one of Margot’s.

“‘Why don’t you skip it?’ I asked.

She looked at me from a faraway place.

‘You know,’ I said, ‘move on to the next year?’

She stared down at her paper mirror. ‘I can’t.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because everything that happens next . . .’

She stopped. She seemed so small that I wanted to scoop her up and lay her down in a pile of soft toys and cushions, and cover her in a warm blanket.”

I read a preview sample from BuzzBooks, so I knew to expect good writing and humour, but I didn’t expect such a detailed and thorough history of Margot’s long and interesting life. She tells Lenni stories with each of her paintings, and Lenni sometimes describes how the painting shows, for example, the stars.

Margot had fallen in love with a star-gazer who was fond of quoting poetry to her, particularly “The Old Astronomer to His Pupil” by Sarah Williams that ends with this wonderful stanza.

“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light.
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

It is perfect for this story of love and friendship and the understandable nervousness about “the night” that faces us all, not just Lenni and Margot. Do not be afraid - read it!
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