From the bestselling author of Iris and Ruby comes a novel of a group of old friends reunited to start a new stage of their lives.
Miranda Meadowe decides a lonely widowhood in her crumbling country house is not for her. Reviving a university dream, she invites five of her oldest friends to come and join her to live, and to stave off the prospect of old age. All have their own reasons for accepting.
To begin with, omens are good. They laugh, dance, drink and behave badly, as they cling to the heritage they thought was theirs for ever: power, health, stability. They are the baby boomers; the world is theirs to change. But as old attractions resurface alongside new tensions, they discover that the clock can’t be put back
When building work reveals an Iron Age burial site of a tribal queen, the outside world descends on their idyllic retreat, and the isolation of the group is breached. Now the past is revealed; and the future that beckons is very different from the one they imagined.
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Acclaim for Rosie Thomas:
‘Rosie Thomas writes with beautiful, effortless prose, and shows a rare compassion and a real understanding of the nature of love.’ The Times
'Heart-rending and beautifully written…I read it in one delicious go, tears pouring down my face. You cannot fail to be moved' Emma Lee-Potter.’ Express
‘A terrific book, beautifully written… questions about identity, belonging, infidelity, dying and forgiveness make this a very moving study of the human heart.’ Australian Women’s WeeklyFrom the Author:
Q&A with Rosie Thomas
What inspired you to write Lovers and Newcomers?
I never find it easy to describe precisely what inspired a novel. Quite often it’s an accretion of half-notions and semi-visualised characters that come together in a specific setting and then demand further attention. I’m highly influenced by places and scenery, and having written several novels with exotic backdrops, I wanted to come back to England. I had spent some time with friends in north Norfolk, and the landscape and weather there, as well as the specific archaeological history, set me thinking. And I had just turned sixty myself, so I wanted to explore some of the experiences and some of the differences of expectation that set baby boomers apart from previous generations reaching that age.
Does life only really begin at sixty or should we relinquish our pasts and concentrate on aging gracefully?
No, life doesn’t begin at sixty. Or not in my experience. Taking stock is a more common response to reaching this milestone, and then (best outcome) trying to live what’s left as gracefully as possible, always in the light of previous hard-won experience. This is what my characters in Lovers & Newcomers are experimenting with. How do you be old, when you’ve got no prior first-hand knowledge of it? But I also wanted a spread of characters of different ages to shed light on this as well – hence the elderly mother with memory loss, and quite a cast of children. One of the problems I had in the writing was in differentiating these subsidiary characters without letting them take over.
Baby boomers are traditionally associated with a rejection of traditional values, affluence and a free spirit – the stereotype being the 60s wild child. How do you think the dynamic of the book would have changed if the collection of women had not shared this past or had met at a later stage in life?
If my three women hadn’t shared significant past experiences, it would have been a completely different book. One of the central themes of the novel is that what we are all left with – after husbands have moved on or died, after children have grown and moved into their own worlds – is our friends, and in particular those old friends who have shared our formative experiences and know our life histories. Can we have a successful relationship with a past lover or should the past always be left in the past? The past is in the past, but it constantly informs the present. Miranda, Polly and the others are continually recalling what has gone before, separately and in their conversations, but they can’t go back to that place. The three women and Colin wouldn’t wish to, either, but both Amos and Selwyn long to be young men again. The Iron Age princess story and Polly’s history of Mead reflect the importance of past-in-present, and Joyce’s defective short-term but pin-sharp long-term memories counterpoint it. At least, that was the intention... Maybe a rekindled affair with a past lover can work (and evidently does, sometimes) but I’d have to say it would be a relationship between four people, including the erstwhile selves, not a simple twosome. So it would be fraught with extra complications, as well as enriched by memories. Selwyn and Miranda, for example, would never have worked as a reconstituted pair. As Miranda knows full well, despite her longings.
Is it significant that the building work reveals an Iron Age burial site of a tribal queen?
Oh yes, definitely. It’s significant first of all that the Princess was a woman, and a powerful tribal leader. Polly, Miranda and Katherine are all struggling in their different ways with individuality and personal expression within marriages and families. Her power – and the treasure that represents it – is an emblem for them. So the loss of the treasure is personal as well as public – as Miranda recognises. Katherine and Chris fall in love at the moment when she puts on the barbaric torc. I also wanted to create a vast, impregnable historical backdrop to set against the passionate but necessarily limited time and events left to my characters. History is l-o-n-g, and that represents a comfort.
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