What happens when your widowed, 61-year-old mother wants to bring a plus-one to your wedding?
In the case of bride-to-be Charlotte ‘that man’ is definitely persona non grata.
And her struggle to come to terms with her mum’s new relationship and re-discovered sexuality provides a thought-provoking backdrop to My Daughter’s Wedding, Claire Baldry’s poignant and romantic tale of love in later life.
It’s very well-observed – told mostly from the viewpoint of Angie, Charlotte’s mother – and, though younger readers might not appreciate some of Baldry’s ironic observations, older ones certainly will.
The tone is set on page two when Angie, who has just refused to cancel her plans so she can collect grandson Joe from school, tells herself: ‘I am not yet old. I have a right to my own life.’
And, after a conventionally happy, although emotionally somewhat distant first marriage, when romance beckons a second time, Angie wants something with a little more oomph!
Charlotte, however, has other ideas.
‘Why do you need to have a man at your age?’ she asks. ‘Can’t you just be a grandma?’
The increasing tension between mother and daughter casts a shadow over the preparations for Charlotte’s wedding to new partner, Ollie.
But Angie, whose best friend Alison has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, is determined not to allow her daughter to choose her friends – or her lovers.
The novel is split into three parts and, it’s at this point, just as Angie and her new beau Martin are becoming established as a couple, that Part Two begins and the viewpoint shifts from Angie to Carly, a young care-leaver, now trying to earn a living by making, among other things, hand-sewn fabric flowers.
It’s a bit of an abrupt change of direction and, because I’d become so invested in Angie’s story, left me floundering a bit.
Fairly soon-ish – so do persevere – the link between the older woman and the younger one becomes clear and together they help give Charlotte the perfect wedding.
In fairness, to Baldry there’s an oblique reference towards the end of Part One to Angie purchasing some hand-crafted flowers at Hastings market. Unfortunately, I missed the hint completely so, perhaps, next time, a little less subtlety?
On balance, though, My Daughter’s Wedding is a very modern love story with a diverse cast of characters and an older heroine who’s determined to live life on her terms.
Good for her!
Review by Sue Featherstone.
Available to buy on Amazon.
About the author:
Claire Baldry retired from her career as a headteacher and English advisor in 2008. She is now an established writer, blogger, performance poet and public speaker in her home county of East Sussex.
Find out more at www.clairebaldry.co.uk