I do love myself a good read filled with 'golden oldies', from A Man Called Ove to Last Bus to Coffeeville and The One-in-a-Million Boy to The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81. Books with one or more elderly main characters have a certain charm to them, reminiscent of children's classics but with a touch of cheeky humour and foolishness. The saying that the older you get the crazier you become does hold up, in fiction at least, and never more so than among the residents of the We Care For You home in Casting Off.
When the owners of the care home in the Scottish Highlands hike up their fees it causes an uproar among the elderly residents. Not only have they not been consulted about the change, but several of the people living there are unable to pay the extortionate new prices. The residents that are still good of mind and body conspire together to come up with a solution to the problem. Some of the fundraising ideas are pretty tame, while others are a little more out there. One thing that all the attempts to help out have in common is that it brings the residents closer together as they now have a shared enemy to fight against.
Casting Off started its life as a play and it's one that I'd love to see on stage. The story oozes charm and cheekiness and I believe it's very well suited to the confines of a theatre. For the novel version, it has been extended with, I assume, the introduction of several other characters, their backstories and lives at the care home. It some cases this was successful, in others it did feel a little bit like they were filler characters and as a reader we don't ever truly get to know them.
The core focus, however, is on a trio of elderly residents; Dorothy who can't pay the hike in fees, her friend and former headmistress Miss Ross, and relative newcomer Joan who is a little more liberal than the other residents are used to. The three meet up every day to knit together, discuss the predicament of the new prices and brainstorming ideas to raise money for Dorothy – ending up with a rather unique solution. This was certainly not the direction I expected the story to take, but it definitely added a touch of colour!
I love the idea behind Casting Off and there are some great characters that will stay with me for a long time, such as Dorothy, Walter, Mrs O'Reilly, Miss Ross, Albert, Joan and honorary resident, Tiddles the cat. However, the story did wander off a bit too much at times for my liking, focusing on characters or plotlines that didn't really suit the story and forgetting about the premise along the way. In the final quarter of the novel the hike in fees, which was still a predicament for the residents, barely got a mention only to conveniently wrap up at the very end.
Despite this, and some unexpected storyline directions, this charming novel makes for a rather delightful, cosy autumn read. It was a joy to read about people with centuries of wisdom among them, yet still taking every opportunity for a cheeky banter, showing that you're never too old for taking part in an impromptu protest, making silly mistakes, learning new things and, most of all, forming new friendships.
Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Casting Off is published by Black & White Publishing and you can pre-order the novel from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.