The Old Joke | Granta

  • Published: 04/03/2010
  • ISBN: 9781846271953
  • 129x20mm
  • 336 pages

The Old Joke

Reina James

Mim Lyons is a retired film actress, occasionally still recognized from her last great starring role in the late 1960s, but now more than content to restrict her performances to occasional play-readings with a group of old friends from the theatrical world. But when her agent calls out of the blue with a job offer, her husband begins to have his own dreams and schemes about the possibility of a comeback in a role that unsettles Mim’s perception of how her husband sees her – and of who she really is. As Mim struggles to preserve the quiet surface of the existence she has created away from the limelight, it becomes impossible to ignore the turmoil in the lives of those closest to her. While her friends’ marriage hits the rocks, her son struggles to clean up his act, her estranged daughter floats back into her life, and her husband is suddenly rendered vulnerable, Mim gradually comes to reassess the roles she has been playing – as friend, as daughter, as mother and as wife – and to decide who exactly she wants to be.

A fresh clear narrative and very dryly and wryly observed

Maureen Lipman, The Times

This is black comedy, but achieved with a delightful sense of the ridiculous. James keeps up the tension, so that one becomes quite eager to know what's going to happen next

Michael Connal, Times Literary Supplement

It's rare that we read about the lives of older people in fiction, and James is to be commended for writing about them

Lesley McDowell, Independent on Sunday

The Author

Reina James is the author of This Time of Dying and The Old Joke. She lives in Sussex with her husband.

More about the author →

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This Time Of Dying

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It is October 1918 and London is gathering in its dead. For Henry Speake, of Speake & Son Undertakers, laying to rest the shattered young bodies of those sent home from the Front to die has become a grimly familiar duty. But what he is seeing now, as influenza claims its victims with increasing speed and force, is something different, and for the first time in his life, Henry feels afraid of death. Unable to share his fears with his waspish, disapproving sisters, Henry turns instead to Mrs Allen Thompson, a recently widowed school teacher, so beginning a friendship which gradually, stumblingly, pulls them in a direction neither is prepared for.

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