All The Lonely People

It’s been a long time since I typed my thoughts on a book but this one truly deserves to have the time dedicated to it. I hadn’t heard of Mike Gayle until last year when ‘Half A World Away’ was making the rounds on ‘bookstagram’ so I had to get hold of a copy. That, along with ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ were my top two books of 2020 and I have recommended them to so many people. They both brought up emotions in me that many books had failed to do before. I thought they were beautifully written and the characterisation was fantastic. So I had to get ‘All The Lonely People’ to see if it matched up and I can tell you now, it did. 

Although I like to think of myself as a bit of a bookworm, I tend to stick to the same genre which is crime/ thriller. It’s my comfort zone as I know I will enjoy the story and twists in the story. I know I should broaden my horizons and it’s always nice finding an author who writes books you can’t put down. All The Lonely People is one of those books. 

Hubert Bird is a widow and has shut himself out from the world. The people who were once his friends have given up trying to keep in touch and the only person he speaks to is his daughter who is on the other side of the world, teaching at the University of Melbourne. Hubert speaks to Rose once a week and always has his trusty notebook by his side as he spins a tale of lies about his social life. He has created a world for his daughter so she doesn’t worry about her father being lonely. The trouble is, Hubert doesn’t even realise how lonely he is. Weaving through past and present, we learn of Hubert’s journey to England, falling in love and making a life he loves. In the present, we see how his young neighbour, Ashleigh and her daughter Layla, bring the 84 year back to life and he realises that he’s not the only one who’s alone in the world. 

From the first chapter I was hooked. Hubert comes across as a grumpy old man, but he has constructed so many walls around his family home and heart to protect himself from heartache. He initially came to England as part of the Windrush generation and from here, we see him develop and thrive to be successful – fulfilling his wildest dreams. It’s a very clever novel. Gayle writes about contemporary issues and after the past year in lockdown, I think all generations can sympathise with every character in the book who feel alone and isolated. 

Gayle writes characters that are so powerful, you feel very invested in their journey and unlike many other novels, you know there may not be a happy ending. This book made me sob and is very thought provoking. He writes on sensitive topics such as racism, mixed-race relationships, loneliness among the elderly and substance abuse. The characters and plot are so powerful, it’s impossible to not enjoy this book. I also love the dynamic between the old and young generation. Ashleigh brings Hubert back to life and it is a beautiful relationship, showing that not all young people are ignorant of the elderly and vice versa. 

It’s uplifting, hopeful, heart-wrenching and emotional. It’s the book the world needs to read after a global pandemic and it is a reminder to check on those you love and care for. Don’t ignore their silence, break down some walls and do all you can to ensure they know someone out there cares for them. Hubert and his army of new-found friends create hope in an otherwise bleak environment. 

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