Review: The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village

Joanna Nell’s bestselling debut novel blows away the cobwebs of social conditioning with a hilarious story of growing old disgracefully.

Peggy Smart is turning eighty soon, and boy does her family know it. A walker turns up on her doorstep, sent by her daughter, and Peggy’s son keeps telling her she should “be more careful”. But Peggy has more in her sights than moving into a home. For example, handsome widower Brian Cornell – who has two knee replacements – and time with her two young grandchildren.

So does Angela Valentine, sophisticated fashionista and Peggy’s long-lost friend. When Angie suddenly moves into Jacaranda Retirement Village, she introduces Peggy and the Village community to fashion, fabulousness, and everything you shouldn’t do “at your age”. But why is Angie doing Peggy so many favours? And can their friendship last after all those years?

Filled with unexpected laugh-out-loud moments, the book is light-hearted and witty while compassionately representing the concerns of growing old. Joanna’s experience as a GP is evident in the character of young Dr Stephen Lim, whose sense of humour helps Peggy navigate various ailments. Like Dr Stephen, Joanna treats the physicality of ageing with care and humour. We experience Peggy’s worries about her memory issues, and a heart condition hovers behind the seemingly indomitable Angie. Yet what really matters for all these characters is the people they love and a sense of fun.

As well as outrageous, the book is sincere, putting both Peggy’s hairdo in order and her lifelong insecurities to rest. Her transformation begins outwardly with Angie-directed makeovers. By story’s end, Peggy has discovered the gift of true friendship, and she really is the confident “mature” woman she’d thought she’d never be.

The characters of The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village are warmly depicted, original, and loveable. I didn’t want to leave them. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read for anyone older than Peggy’s grandchildren (who already know that fun has no age limit).

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