Guppies for Tea

by Marika Cobbold

Published by Black Swan

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Review by Linda L. Richards


Guppies for Tea is the kind of gentle saga that makes one wish for a beach day: just to have the luxury of reading it at one sitting. It's that kind of book.

The first novel of UK-based Marika Cobbold, Guppies for Tea is already a bestseller in its native United Kingdom. The book has been newly-released in Canada where aficionados of aga-sagas of the type written by Joanna Trollope are expected to fall in line as neatly as their British counterparts did. We'll see.

It's a solid first attempt. Cobbold's voice is strong, and the story she has chosen to tell is an engaging one. It's the story of Amelia, a 30-year-old journalist living the life she dreamed: until her boyfriend falls out of love with her and abruptly into love with someone else: under Amelia's roof.

While Amelia's relationship with her boyfriend is in its sometimes amusing death throes, she rekindles one she'd neglected. That being the one with her grandmother, always the strongest woman in her life and now taken from her home and left to finish her life alone in a nursing home.

It is this reconnection that is the most interesting element of the story. Here we see intimately the place -- physically and emotionally -- where the aged are sometimes relegated in our society. A place where people try often not to look. Amelia looks closely and determines to do something, at one point springing her grandmother, Selma, from the nursing home and taking her home.

This release from the nursing home brings Amelia the parallels between the babies she's always wanted and the aging child she's determined to look after.

... Amelia thought how unfairly arranged it all was. Babies' toothlessness was sweet, their chubbiness, cuddly. They dribble their food, they burp and sick up, lacking all control over their bodily functions, but the package came wrapped in such irresistible cuteness that few people failed to coddle and assist. After all, Amelia thought, how many Residential Homes for the Active Infant did you see dotted along leafy, small-town streets?

Cobbold resists any urge she might have had to preach against society's lack of care for the elderly. She doesn't cop for an easy and illogical solution. Nor does the serious topic detract from a very charming and humorous narrative. Cobbold has created an interesting, uncomplicated tale that won't change your life. It might, however, make for a good afternoon's read.


Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine. Her fourth novel, Death was the Other Woman, is published by St. Martin's Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books.