Book Report: The Handyman by Penelope Mortimer (1983)

Well, with a title like that, one would expect it to either be a bodice-ripping romance or a horror book. This book is neither.

It deals with a recent British widow who decides after her husband’s sudden death to move to a small cottage in the British countryside. She does so and discovers its environs are mostly owned by a land-grabber who has a number of ruffians about. There’s also a faded writer nearby. She moves in, deals a bit with her two children, and then engages a handyman to do a little work on her cottage.

Well, the handyman is a louse, ultimately, and his lousiness triggers a change in the widow and her son, and the characters move on that event. The book ends in tragedy, though, which saddened me, and the author goes for the Nausea ending:

A memorial, then, to both of them, extinct as they are, foolish, fond, courageous and insignificant.

That is, in spite of the meaninglessness, the writer character decides to tell the idiot’s tale for us. Marvelous.

I’m probably a better person, slightly, for going outside the normal comforts of genre fiction. The book isn’t a bad read, although a trifle slow and slightly alien for a middle-aged American male.

Books mentioned in this review:

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