This week our Fiction Editor, Shirley, reviews The Last of the Greenwoods by Clare Morrall
The Greenwoods of the title are two elderly brothers, Nick and Johnny. They live in a pair of abandoned railway carriages down Long Meadow Road, almost hidden in a tangle of foliage. Unfortunately they can’t stand each other and haven’t exchanged a word for years, awkward when they’re such close and isolated neighbours. How come? And why are their homes railway carriages?
The story of how is one of the three interweaving story strands running through this thoroughly entertaining book.
The How and Why
The second story strand is the virtual grenade lobbed into the brothers’ stalemate in the form of a letter claiming to be from their sister, Debs. That’s the sister they’ve thought for decades was dead. Where Debs – or is it actually her best friend Bev? – has been for all this time, and why, is a story of its own.
The third story strand concerns the young postwoman who tracks down their remote address to deliver the letter. She’s a railways enthusiast and sees their odd living accommodation not so much as their quirky home but as unexpected treasure. Her name is Zohra and she, too, has her own history, her own demons, her own pain.
Wry Humour and Understanding
All of the characters are compellingly portrayed. They’re all damaged in their own ways, and yet the overall tone of the book isn’t angsty or overwrought. It’s fun, written with a wry humour tempered with a deep understanding of and sympathy for imperfect people, as you would expect in this skilful writer’s hands. After all, she was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize with her debut novel, Splashes of Colour.
The Last of the Greenwoods is out now in Sceptre hardback – click here to buy it
About the Author
Clare Morrall took time out of her busy schedule to write a short story exclusively for People’s Friend readers. It’s A Voyage Of Discovery and it’s in Special 153 on sale Wednesday, along with a short Q&A. Don’t miss it!