Hodder & Stoughton 23rd July 2020
Life is waiting to happen to Hubert Bird. But first he has to open his front door and let it in.
In weekly phone calls to his daughter in Australia, widowed Hubert Bird paints a picture of the perfect retirement, packed with fun, friendship and fulfilment.
But Hubert Bird is lying.
The truth is day after day drags by without him seeing a single soul.
Until that is, he receives some good news – good news that in one way turns out to be the worst news ever, news that will force him out again, into a world he has long since turned his back on.
Now Hubert faces a seemingly impossible task: to make his real life resemble his fake life before the truth comes out.
Along the way Hubert stumbles across a second chance at love, renews a cherished friendship and finds himself roped into an audacious community scheme that seeks to end loneliness once and for all…
Life is certainly beginning to happen to Hubert Bird. But with the origin of his earlier isolation always lurking in the shadows will he ever get to live the life he’s pretended to have for so long?
Oh what a fabulous book. Mike Gayle has created an endearing character in Hubert Bird, comparable I think to Fredrik Backman’s Ove (reviewed here) although somewhat less cantankerous! Hubert Bird came to England from Jamaica in 1957, tempted by work and a better life although the reality was something different – greeted with hostility and overt racism and limited job opportunities and accommodation. Despite this Hubert’s upbeat character shone through, he met and married Joyce, her family were against the union but the couple, driven by love were determined and they created a happy marriage with 2 children.
Life was hard, but together they lived a great life, when Joyce died Hubert maintained contact with his friends and daughter, but one tragedy too many caused Hubert to withdraw and before long his life had shrunk and he was alone.
Told in a then and now format, we meet Hubert as he makes the decision to come to England. As the story proceeds the reader knows their are gaps, parts of the story hidden in the intervening years, as yet untold, but the Hubert in the current time has been alone for a number of years, before striking up an unlikely friendship with single mum Ashleigh.
The character of Hubert is terrific, a charming and humble man and the story spanning his adult life is tender and moving. This is an enjoyable and uplifting read and whilst at times it may have been ever so slightly cliched, this was all redeemed with some twists late on in the story, with a finale that I defy anyone not to get teary eyed at!
Light hearted contemporary fiction with some very current themes of racism and loneliness and offering insight into the experiences of the ‘Windrush generation’.
Publishing later this month this is a book I am definitely recommending. Thank you to Jenny Platt at Hodder & Stoughton for inviting me to be involved in the blog tour celebrating publication and for providing me with a proof copy of the book.
About the Author
Mike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham. After graduating from Salford University with a degree in Sociology, he moved to London to pursue a career in journalism and worked as a Features Editor and agony uncle. He has written for a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Cosmopolitan.
Mike became a full time novelist in 1997 follwing the publication of his Sunday Times top ten bestseller My Legendary Girlfriend, which was hailed by the Independent as ‘full of belly laughs and painfully acute observations,’ and by The Times as ‘a funny, frank account of a hopeless romantic’. Since then he has written fourteen novels, including The Man I Think I Know, selected as a World Book Night title, and Half A World Away, selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club. His books have been translated into more than thirty languages.