At the Jerusalem
Publisher: Head of Zeus
'A very funny book, but never jeering, full of pity, but unsentimentally harsh with the tragedy of old age which institutional kindness cannot cushion' Financial Times.
Following the death from leukaemia of her daughter, Celia, Mrs Gadny goes to live with her sullen stepson Henry. But she finds little affection or contentment either with him, or with his selfish wife Thelma, or with their ungrateful children. She is sent to an old people's home, 'The Jerusalem', a converted workhouse, green-and-white-tiled. Mrs Gadny is repulsed and humiliated by the home and its inmates: women like acid-tongued Miss Trimmer, the vulgar toothless Mrs Affery, and Mrs O'Blath with her hysterical laughter. Retreating from the kindness offered her by the nurses and the friendly Mrs Capes, she withdraws into her memories, but even their fragmented recollection provides small comfort. Mrs Gadny's only escape from 'The Jerusalem' lies in her own crumbling consciousness.
Paul Bailey is sensitive to the exact nuance of conversation, the precise detail that can create an environment or a mood, and draw the reader into it. His book is an exquisitely defined miniature whose impression will not easily be forgotten.
With an introduction by Colm Tóibín.