This sexagenarian romp is a comic thriller

Posted on 29/07/2017 0 CommentPosted by in Books

The Last Laugh, by Lynn Freed, reviewed by Valerie Miner for The San Francisco Chronicle.

The Last Laugh is a sexagenarian romp featuring four women who escape to a Greek island for a year. In Lynn Freed’s new novel and ninth book, characters crave a break from adult children and, perhaps, from facing the next stage of life.

Her dramatic scenes of stalking, adultery, murder and reincarnation make The Last Laugh a superb option for a comic thriller movie.

Each vagabond is on the cusp of 70. Ruth is a California writer originally from South Africa; Dania, also transplanted to California, is a psychotherapist from Israel; and Bess, half-sister of Ruth, is a woman of many passports.

The urbane women have thought of almost everything, including a rental house for the inevitable family invasions.

One of their first surprises is the arrival of Gladdy, Bess’ childhood pal, who acts as a cross between friend and servant, insisting on shopping and cooking for the group. Gladdy, also 69, is Zulu.

Ruth recently killed off Stefan Gripp, hero of her detective novels, so she can finally retire. Dania has only a few remaining clients, who consult by phone, and one troubled patient who starts to blackmail her.

Bess, whose main identity seems to be bonne vivante, quickly takes up with a married Greek taxi driver. Gladdy, meanwhile, is the most successful at adapting to Greece and making local friends.

Aging older and bolder now a hot subject

Aging is suddenly a hot topic in books as well as TV and film. Freed’s depiction of the constraints and liberation of the “golden years” recalls moments in Margaret Drabble’s The Dark Flood Rises, Kathleen Rooney’s Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, Ali Smith’s Autumn and Cathleen Shine’s They May Not Mean To, But They Do.

Freed nimbly dramatises the strengths and flaws of the women as they discover freedom from work and family.

Ruth’s magazine column, “Granny Au Go Go,” is interspersed throughout the narrative she writes about shopping, cooking, communal life, cultural differences.

“One small cause of relief in being away from America is that no one … seems moved to declare at the close of every telephone conversation, ‘Don’t forget the dry cleaning! Love you’!”

Full review: The Last Laugh by Lynn Freed.

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