I’d never read a book by Mick Jackson when I read The Widow’s Tale, when it came out last spring, and, though I thought it was great, I haven’t rushed out and bought anything else by him. Selfish, I know, but I’m simply scared of spoiling my relationship with a book that I knew, almost from the first page, was destined to be a life-long favourite.
Jackson’s novel takes the form of a written confession by an unnamed 63-year-old woman who, recently bereaved, undergoes something of a brainstorm and flees her London house, driving up the M11 in her late husband’s Jag until she hits the north Norfolk coast. There she rents a fisherman’s cottage and knuckles down the hard task of working out who she is, now that she’s no longer half of a married couple. It must be said that her choice of refuge is far from random, but to mention in what way would be to risk spoiling a book that is, in fact, a complete joy to read.
That’s a lie, in fact – I reckon you could say anything you liked about the plot or character, and it wouldn’t spoil anything. Partly this is because the book is, under its weight of sadness, hugely funny – the narrator is clearly using her grief as an excuse to rip into any aspects of life she finds at all tiresome (bad theatre, birdwatchers, most of the people she comes across in her little Norfolk village). Above all, though, it’s the voice, the voice that is so wonderfully immersive. You could almost say, it’s not a book on the shelf, it’s a person.
Jonathan Gibbs reviews for various newspapers and blogs at tinycamels.wordpress.com