Grandmothers by Salley Vickers

I decided to read Grandmothers by Salley Vickers because I have a hunch that it could be a useful novel when I’m bookselling. I have sometimes dealt with customers who are of an older generation who don’t often see themselves represented in fiction, and feeling this disconnect, stop reading.

Grandmothers weaves together storylines of three women in their sixties who come from different circumstances. They each have a complicated relationship with either their family, their past and the young children in their lives.

Nan is small, fierce, and a no-nonsense type. Minna is soft, quiet and secretly heartbroken. Blanche is glamorous, affluent and lacking direction. Through a series of coincidental trips and journeys, the women meet and learn from each other.

There are some wonderful humorous touches in this book, such as Blanche taking up shoplifting and Nan’s quest to find the perfect coffin. I also loved the women’s at-odds perception of each other. Minna takes in Blanche’s elegant clothing and immediately feels inferior, and yet Blanche looks at Minna’s earthy appearance and assumes her to be a highly intellectual professor who will put her to shame.

What I liked the most is the difference between the three women’s characters, particularly with Nan. She is steely and hard and often abrupt, and I noticed this more than I usually would when reading. Salley gives each of her matriarchs equal time and measure. Despite dominant and submissive streaks in their personal make-up, I never felt there was one main character but that all three were handled confidently throughout.