The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 18 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

My Thoughts

‘I don’t see the point at my age. Who’s going to look at me anyway?’

Being a member of the sandwich generation (responsible both for bringing up your own children and caring for your ageing parents) I fully appreciate what this book has to offer. An engaging read, heartwarming really, about the high and low points of what it is to grow old. There will be laughter, there will be tears but most of all it highlights what it’s like to be facing the twilight years of one’s life.

‘It’s difficult to make those really deep friendships when you’re our age, don’t you find? No sooner have you got to know each other than you’re wearing their favourite colour and singing ‘Abide With Me.’

Follow along with Peggy and her fellow residents of the Jacaranda Retirement Village as they face the growing hurdles of what it is to age. At times humorous, at times incredibly sad, I feel that this book really does shone the spotlight on both aspects of this life stage. How do we treat our elderly, what is like to be facing a loss of independence, a lost partner or loved one - how do you move on from that? Peggy (the main lead) goes through all this and more and with the help of her lifelong friend Angie, learns to see life through a different - ‘a pensioner camouflaged in fifty shades of beige’ - lens! 

‘Unfortunately, it all went downhill once I hit the mental-pause.’

The standout aspects of this book is firstly the humour. Peggy’s thoughts, musings and observations are very funny. Whether you know someone, or even have experienced some similar situations, it will ring true for many of us. For the female readers, no matter what age, we all have had to deal with mood swings, memory loss and body image shame. 

‘She hated shopping. Underwear was challenging enough, but swimwear was in a league of its own.’

The second aspect I wish to draw attention to, is the underlying theme of loss and sadness - loss of youth, loss of independence, loss of a loved one. This book may make you giggle, but at this stage of life, it goes hand in hand with many a sad truth. Whether it be physical (knee replacements or the consequences of having a fall), social (loss of a friend) or emotional  (loss of your own cognitive skills) - it’s just so challenging to face and confront this onslaught of change. 

Peggy stared at the shaggy fringe of dust clinging to the blades of the ceiling fan. How she’d love to get up there and give them a good clean, but it wasn’t worth it. Her independent life at the village was already hanging by the thinnest of threads. She couldn’t risk falling from the stepladder.

Finally there are the many pertinent themes that run throughout - lessons to be learnt at any stage of life. Everything from taking charge of your own life, learning how precious time is, being thankful and best of all, it’s never too late to make changes. Peggy learns to embrace these changes, thanks to Angie’s encouragement, and surprises herself with new and fun discoveries. 

‘How many of the colourful dresses in her wardrobe had been worn to farewell someone who had had a fall. Stay upright seemed to be the mantra of her age group.’

This book has a little something for everyone - best of all is perhaps its honesty - laugh or cry (or do both) but embrace life and cherish each and every day. 

‘You have to stop thinking like an old person. If you behave like an old biddy, people are going to treat you like one.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
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This was a really fun read. What a character Peggy and her friends at The Jacaranda Retirement Village are. As well as being very humorous, this also touches on important issues such as how we treat our elderly, especially our parents, how elderly people feel about getting older, maintaining their independence as long as possible and who they see themselves as, especially after they lose their partner and have to live life without them. Peggy goes through lots of learning about herself as the story goes on, her friend Angie is the biggest instigator of this and is a good friend and just what Peggy needs at this point in her life. Peggy's thought process is so amusing, her descriptions and ways of forgetting things made me laugh. I didn't much like Peggy's children and the way they treated Peggy as though she were a child, not able to make her own decisions, though they redeemed themselves at the end. A really enjoyable read.
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Book blurb…
The life of 79-year-old pensioner PEGGY SMART is as beige as the decor in her retirement village. Her week revolves around aqua aerobics and appointments with her doctor. Following a very minor traffic accident, things have turned frosty with her grown-up children and she is afraid they are trying to take away her independence. 
The highlight of Peggy's day is watching her neighbour Brian head out for his morning swim. She dreams of inviting the handsome widower - treasurer of the Residents' Committee and one of the few eligible men in the village - to an intimate dinner. But why would an educated man like Brian, a chartered accountant no less, look twice at Peggy? As a woman of a certain age, she fears she has become invisible, even to men in their eighties.
But a chance encounter with an old school friend she hasn't seen in five decades - the glamorous fashionista ANGIE VALENTINE - sets Peggy on an unexpected journey of self-discovery.

My Thoughts…
I'd heard a lot of positive comments about this book before it was released so I was keen to read it, even though I knew nothing about the plot. 

I guess I should have realised the subject matter, given the title, but to be honest, I never imagined a novel about old people set in a retirement village as being something I’d enjoy or, for that matter, find very interesting. 

I was wrong. The Single Ladies of the Jacaranda Retirement Village is a well-told tale of ageing in a modern society. (What I didn’t like so much was that I am frighteningly close in age to the mostly grey-haired characters and seeing my future on the pages, as hilarious as the telling was, may have taken some of the joy out of my read. (I’m also doing my pelvic floor exercises as I type.)

The author has a wonderful way with words, making me laugh out loud in places. The story is not fast-paced, but then neither are the septuagenarians and octogenarians the story revolves around, who are all authentically portrayed throughout the book.  I do admit to picturing Joanna Lumley from Ab Fab in one of the characters, which only added to my enjoyment (as I love that character). 

I chuckled, I gasped, and I shed a tear at the end. You can't ask for more than that from a book.
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The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village could effectively be considered as a coming of age story set in a retirement village. The protagonist, 79-year-old Peggy Smart, is coming to terms with the loss of her husband and the pace of life in the retirement village. Her children are questioning her ability to take care of herself and she is beginning to question her abilities and her value. Peggy’s life is shaken up when an old school friend, Angie Valentine, moves into the retirement village. Angie is determined to live every moment of her life and her vitality is contagious. Angie challenges Peggy’s comfortable existence and encourages her to take some risks and explore all that life has to offer.

The story explores some key issues of aging including health decline, memory loss, facing one’s own mortality, experiencing the reactions of one’s children to an aging parent, the loss of a spouse, and the experience of the ongoing gradual loss of friends and peers.

One noteworthy theme was the exploration of incontinence. This is a health issue that many people often suffer in silence. There is sense of inevitability associated with it and a degree of shame. Often the symptoms can be treated or improved. Penny, the protagonist, had struggled with bladder issues for most of her life. A new GP at the retirement village explored her complaint more deeply than previous GP’s and offered her a variety of different treatment options and the possibility of improvement.

Penny’s self-depreciating humour is reflective of the attitude of many people and consistent with her character. It enabled the exploration of how she felt about aging and how her children’s reactions made her feel. It also changed as she began to accept the changes that she was experiencing, change the things that she could and enjoy living in the moment.

Another characteristic Penny displayed was mixing up her words. She accidently substitutes inappropriate words at candid times which created some humorous moments. At times it is difficult to tell if this is accidental or deliberate but, as she seems unaware of her mistake, the repeated use of this humour creates the sense that the author and reader are sharing a private joke at her expense.

Although exploring some serious issues, The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village is a light hearted and enjoyable story.
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This is such a great story it is funny, moving, emotional and so very heart-warming, make yourself comfortable for this one while you enjoy meeting the lovey seventy nine year old Peggy Smart and the highs and lows of living in a retirement village and aging with decorum and aplomb as best she can.

Peggy is widowed, she has two children David who is married to Mel they have two children Sam and Emily and Jenny who lives with her girlfriend and the alpacas, Peggy lives alone with her dog Basil, her little old man, yes she can be forgetful but the Webster’s pill packaging does help her with the days of the week, as does her colour co-ordinated calendar, she also loves checking one of the neighbours out, that would be Brian retired chartered accountant and treasurer of the residents committee the man that Peggy dreams of inviting for dinner one day, yes life is good for Peggy, but then Angie Valentine moves into the village and Peggy’s life is going to improve maybe?

Peggy and Angie met when they were eight years old, they went to school together and worked together for some time but Angie was always the out spoken one the one to go for what she wanted never lost for words and she went onto travel the world with her job and Peggy married Ted and settled down and now Angie is still the beautiful, vibrant person she was and she steps in to improve Peggy’s life but Peggy is unsure about all of this and worries a little. Meeting up with Peggy again for Angie was what she had wanted there is a secret that needs to be told and Angie will do anything for her friend Peggy

This one had me laughing out loud with tears running down my face as Peggy gets herself into a few scrapes but Angie is there and when the tables are turned Peggy is there for Angie. This is a beautifully written story with all of the emotional feels that will keep you turning the pages, the characters are rich, vibrant and alive, truly there is much laughter and there are tears as this journey of friendship and aging gracefully with fun, it is never too late to find love and enjoy life. This a must read. A story that I highly recommend, huge congratulations on a fabulous debut and I look forward to many more books from MS Nell.
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Quite a good novel to read from a newly found author. I will be reading more from her as it was a very quick read that I found hard to put down.
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