What I Mean is…

We returned a week ago from a relaxing week in Mallorca, our first trip abroad in almost three years. It was an experiment to see how my husband coped with flying and walking, after a summer of pain with drop foot.

No one can fault the hotel, the food, the service or the small holiday resort which has been built for ease of use and safety of pedestrians. The problem was us longing for some sign that we were actually in Spain, the real Spain, not the sanitised version. I knew beforehand what we were buying, sun, heat, a pool and all the food you can eat. It’s our fault for growing older and knowing that cobblestones were a no no, as were hills and rough tracks and sightseeing in small villages off the beaten track. Can I bear the thought of never being able to explore old towns and taking a drive, letting serendipity take over as we come across another hidden gem?

At least I got plenty of reading done. mostly enjoyable but unmemorable books. I tried another Elizabeth Strout, Oh William. My first attempt at reading this raved over author was unsuccessful. I couldn’t pet past her wholly unlikeable characters. I quite enjoyed Oh William, for its gentle insight into a first marriage where the couple stayed friends but knew each other’s flaws, but I got tired of Lucy’s double explanations followed by ”is what I mean” – the character’s voice which became an annoying verbal tic.

Wholly better, in my opinion, was Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny, same subject, same setting – a second marriage in New York, but this time with an autistic son. Written from the point of view of the husband, with a cool, precise ex-wife, and a garrulous, spontaneous and younger current wife, I found the writing thoroughly engaging, hugely comic and deeply sensitive. There’s no great plot, as there wasn’t for the Strout. They are both slices of life to be observed, one that became somewhat tiring, the other – ooh, what happens next?


About Rosemary Noble

Writer, author, amateur historian and traveller
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