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Review: The Vintage Springtime Club by Beatrice Meier, translated by Simon Pare–UPDATED

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My Interest

“Yet ever since she’d had this six in front of her age, things hadn’t been exactly as they were before. The six had sucked some of the life out of her.”

Well, the obvious word her is “Springtime”–this one fits in nicely with reading according to the season of the year. Second, the people are all my age–60 and up. Third, a lot of us NEED a “flatshare” or “houseshare” to live a comfortable retirement. But, will this idea catch on in time for me? I wonder. I should have listened to my grandmother on money.

The Story

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“‘Old-age flatshares are such a lovely idea….’ the woman remarked. ‘A nice boost at the onset of the third age. Being there for one another when someone needs help.  Doing things together, cooking together, going to the theatre and the cinema, playing sports….’ She leaned forward kindly. ‘What were your reasons?’ [He] narrowed his eyes like Clint Eastwood as he sized her up in the rear-view mirror. ‘Old-age poverty,’ he said through gritted teeth.”

In Cologne, Germany, Philip has inherited his mother’s pre-war apartment. It has numerous bedrooms, good living space (only one bathroom) and her beloved, fat, dachshund, Ralf. Having spent his life as a doctor Mali, Philip is coming to terms with moving back to his childhood home.  His friend from college and nuclear protest days, Ricarda–widow of his best friend, has just found out she must vacate her flat so the whole place can be totally rebuilt and redone. Voila, a “flatshare” is born. Once Eckart, Harry, and Uschi move in they all have a new family. Until…. [No spoilers].

What will communal living do for these five 60-somethings?

My Thoughts

“I always thought that some day I’d do this or that….When I ‘grow up’ I’ll do this or that. I didn’t notice that, if I really wanted to do something, that ‘some day’ has to be now. I just let time tick away. As if it would go on and on forever, you know? And suddenly, I’m past sixty…..Past sixty! I can’t get used to the thought.”

I liked ALL of these characters, but had a special fondness for Ralf. Who doesn’t love a chubby Dachshund with a love of salami? I thought the conflict in the book was very real–as in real life. It was believable.

I love this idea of same age (more or less) co-housing (as opposed to co-housing with multiple ages), but not sure if I could cope with four housemates! Still, economic necessity will likely drive many of my generation (the not-really-baby-boomers born in ’60 to ’64) to seek out solutions like this. I have friends in mind who’d fit the bill nicely, but I only know of one who is as badly prepared for retirement as I am.

My Verdict

3.5

The Vintage Springtime Club by Beatrice Meier

I read this for the 2022 European Reading Challenge hosted by Rose City Reader

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Funny note: I keep noticing how books today mention the “notes” or whatever of a man’s cologne. In this book it was the woman’s perfume. And, another thing that seems only to happen in books–someone sticks the tip of their tongue out in concentration. Something I have never, ever seen in anyone other than in books and movies or in an early elementary school classroom.

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Reading Around the World · Uncategorized

Review: Travelers: A Novel by Helon Habila

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I learned of this book from City of Asylum Books

Remember: Regardless of which online retailer I link to in my posts, I do not make any money off your clicks. They are simply included for your convenience. Today I am linking to an Indie bookseller–the one that introduced me to this novel.

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My Interest

Our world is experiencing an unprecedented flux of refugees. Border policies, immigration laws, and related policy topics are at the forefront of national debates. All varieties of exclusionist Nationalism are rearing their ugly heads all over the place.  Another book, a nonfiction title, Afropean: Notes From Black Europe by Johny Pitts, also caught my eye as I followed the rabbit trail through the internet that led me to this novel. I will review that book another time–if I am able to get a copy through the library.

The Story

Leaving America with his wife so she can do accept a prestigious fellowship in Berlin, a Nigerian graduate student finds life in today’s Europe to be an interesting mix of nationalities–all seeking to better their lives in affluent, well-educated Northern European countries. The various characters that cycle through the story come from different countries–mostly African nations struggling with poverty. Some have been refugees, others have arrived as students. All come from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. The refugee experience, whether intentional or from lapsing out of legal status, is what they have in common.

My Thoughts

When Malawi was mentioned I knew I’d read this book. Zambia came up as well as other countries with which I was familiar.  I found the stories poignant, but not cloying. The characters were mostly very believable. One was a bit pc but it made me stop and wonder, if, just if, perhaps things truly have changed enough for that character’s story to be based on reality. The narrative was woven like a tapestry–the different people and experiences overlapping in a way that I enjoyed. The ways people adapted, the places they made into homes, those were the human side of things that we often forget and which the book made so real.

My Verdict

4 Stars

Travelers: A Novel by Helon Habila

I will definitely read more of this author’s work.