Publishing year: 2016
This is a sweet book about Timothy Gandy, a lovely fifty-five year-old man. The novel starts when Timothy goes on early retirement as the company he has been working for as a graphic designer goes through some re-structuring. Timothy doesn’t know what he is going to do with his time. Timothy is married to Isobel, who he met thirty years ago at university. The relationship between them has cooled down. Isobel is a rush of energy and is busy all day in her different activities, and Timothy feels that she doesn’t even know he is there most of the time. He also fears that he should have stood his ground with Isobel but on most occasions he simply let her opinions gain him.
Timothy and Isobel have two grown-up children. Oliver, a barrister, who is married to Vita. Timothy feels he cannot connect with his older child, and he finds his wife unbearable. The only relationship he keeps with them is when they need someone to do some DYI since Oliver is not very good at it. Their second child is Alice, a very self-contained woman who hardly sees her parents as she works as a librarian in an Oxford College. The apple of Timothy’s eye is his youngest daughter, Rosie. The young woman is very affectionate with her father. Rosie is pregnant and lives with her partner Ace, who is a naturalist. The fact that Rosie is unmarried is something that Isobel disapproves of, but Timothy doesn’t seem to care. He likes Ace, and actually, Ace is the only one who asks him what he wants to do now that he is retired. Timothy has always wanted to travel but Isobel has always been scared of flying or felt seasick. Now Ace tells her that he could do some travelling on his own, but Timothy doesn’t think it would be fair for Isobel.
Then something unexpected happens. When Isobel is playing a tennis game with her friends, she collapses after having a massive heart attack and dies. Six months go by, and Timothy decides that he will go travelling for a while. Oliver disapproves of it as he thinks that his father will be squandering his inheritance, which makes Rosie very angry. Rosie, who by now has given birth to baby Elsie, is supportive and wants her father to live his dreams. She and Ace encourage Timothy to do what he has always wanted to do.
So in May he leaves from St Pancras and takes the Eurostar to Paris. In Paris he is delighted, feeling that Paris is all he thought it would be like. He is a little disappointed when he visits the Louvre because of the hordes of tourists there, and the size of Mona Lisa. As he walks along the Seine, he sees the painters and the shops selling postcards, paintings and painting material. Timothy used to paint when he was fresh out of university and just married, but then he stopped as the children came. Now he feels a desire to indulge in that long-forgotten hobby, so he buys materials to paint.
The following day he goes to Versailles and while he is painting, a woman approaches and tells him that he is talented. The woman, whose name is Francine Faragon, starts talking to him and says that he runs a small gallery and she would be ready to sell whatever he painted. Timothy tells her that he is travelling and it is his first time in Paris, but he needs to change hotels as the one he is staying in is too costly. Francine suggests a little hotel, and Timothy checks in there the following day. The woman running the hotel is Pamela Lamont, a English woman, who apparently is friends with Francine. He runs into Francine outside the hotel, and impulsively asks her to have dinner with him. She accepts, and they enjoy a lovely dinner. Timothy finds her terribly attractive, and then she asks him to her apartment for coffee. They simply talk, but when she walks him to her door at the end of the night, they kiss.
Timothy doesn’t know what to think about Francine. He thinks that the kiss won’t mean anything to her. She is fifteen years younger than him, and what happened the night before was just a gesture of friendship. Timothy doesn’t see Francine for two days, and then she turns up in his hotel, terribly upset. She tells him that she is in a terrible fix. Her gallery has not been doing well, and she owes twenty thousand euros, and she doesn’t have that money. So soon she will be kicked out of her apartment. Then she confesses that her landlady is Pamela Lamont, whose late husband was the godfather of Francine’s ex-husband Alain. The Lamonts lent her the money for her gallery when she and Alain divorced even though Alain kept saying that it wasn’t him who had cheated but Francine. The problem now is that Pamela saw the kiss between Francine and Timothy, and now that she thinks that Alain was telling the truth, she demands full payment.
Timothy makes a rash decision in that moment. He will lend Francine the money. I don’t know what to think of Francine, and at some point Timothy has a niggling feeling that he shouldn’t have been so rash. Francine is over the moon, and the night before he is to leave, Francine invites him to hers and they make love. Timothy feels ecstatic, and then he feels he doesn’t want to leave. Yet, Francine convinces him that this is what he has to do. I don’t know if Francine is trustworthy, and whether her interest in Timothy is genuine. I hope that Timothy doesn’t get a disappointment, because when he leaves her, he knows he is in love.
His next destination is Monaco. There he meets Archie Bedlington, who sells very luxurious yachts to millionaires. Timothy and Archie strike up a friendship when Archie’s prospective client stands him up, and Archie decides to show the yacht to Timothy. That night they have dinner together, and Archie tells him about trying to find his way in life. After his education in public school, he refused to go to university, and instead he travelled to Ghana where he could see the abject poverty ruling the country. Then he went home for a while, and then a friend offered him a job in Monaco. Archie talks about the difference between the poverty in Ghana and the extravagance in Monaco, but he is also quite practical in his thoughts. He doesn’t despise the extravagant millionaires in Monaco, but thinks that thanks to their money, many people in Monaco have money.
I didn’t know what to expect from this book, but I like it so much! I love Timothy and his views on life and everything he comes across. I wonder what other experiences he will have, and what will happen with Francine. Will he saw her again? Will she pay him back as she promised? And what will his children think?