Today I’m delighted to be hosting a stop on a special blog tour to celebrate Cheltenham Literature Festival which is taking place between 8th and 17th October in various venues around Cheltenham. There’s something for everyone including talks and interviews with authors from a variety of genres and events for children. There are still tickets available for some events which you can purchase via the Cheltenham Literature Festival website.
I was thrilled to receive a copy of Kate Mosse’s book, An Extra Pair of Hands: A Story of Caring, Ageing and Everyday Acts of Love, courtesy of the Wellcome Collection, Profile Books and Midas PR. Kate is appearing alongside Michael Rosen at Cheltenham Literature Festival tomorrow, 14th October 2021. You can read my review of An Extra Pair of Hands below. You can also read my write-up of Kate’s recent appearance at Henley Literary Festival in which she talked about both A City of Tears, the latest novel in The Burning Chambers series, and An Extra Pair of Hands.
About the Book
As our population ages, more and more of us find ourselves caring for parents and loved ones – some 8.8 million people in the UK. An invisible army of carers holding families together.
Here, Kate Mosse tells her own personal story of finding herself a carer in middle age: first, helping her heroic mother care for her beloved father through Parkinson’s, then supporting her mother in widowhood, and finally as ‘an extra pair of hands’ for her 90-year-old mother-in-law.
This is a story about the gentle heroism of our carers, about small everyday acts of tenderness, and finding joy in times of crisis. It’s about juggling priorities, mind-numbing repetition, about guilt and powerlessness, about grief, and the solace of nature when we’re exhausted or at a loss. It is also about celebrating older people, about learning to live differently – and think differently about ageing.
But most of all, it’s a story about love.
Format: Hardcover (208 pages) Publisher: Wellcome Collection/Profile Books
Publication date: 3rd June 2021 Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Disclosure: If you buy a book via the above link, I may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops
As Kate Mosse points out in the opening chapter of the book, An Extra Pair of Hands is not a ‘how to’ book but a tribute to three ‘extraordinary’ people – her father, her mother and her mother-in-law – and her own reflections on becoming a carer, the ‘extra pair of hands’ of the book’s title.
The are many moments of insight, such as the distinction between ‘caring’ and being a ‘carer’. As she says, the latter is about ‘routine, the endless repetition of things, of always having someone else’s needs at the forefront of your mind. The quotidian tasks that repeat and repeat: conversations, medication, meals, laundry, personal hygiene.’ (Interestingly, Ed Balls during his appearance at Henley Literary Festival last week said something similar about his experience of caring for his mother who has dementia.)
Kate argues that too often the needs of carers are overlooked and she produces evidence to show that the responsibility for caring falls overwhelmingly on women, leading her to conclude, ‘Care is a feminist issue.’ She is honest enough to admit that she is in a more fortunate position than most carers, including having an occupation that she can do from home. I think the book was especially good at communicating the many facets of being a carer – the emotional, physical, social and financial aspects as well as the practical day-to-day responsibilties.
Alongside her experiences of caring for her father, mother and then her mother-in-law, Kate shares lovely memories of her childhood and of her parents’ early lives. And I was struck by how important nature and the countryside is to her, as a distraction from everyday concerns and a place for contemplation. ‘In the garden, the grass is stiff and white with frost. The sky is shifting from a glittering starred black to blue, the sun now rising in an apricot sky. The softest tint of pink reflecting on the roof of the house next door’. That passage is made all the more poignant because it is the morning of her mother’s funeral. Indeed there are intensely moving sections of the book describing the final days of her father’s life, and later her mother’s too.
Although the book addresses many serious topics, there are joyful moments as well such as when Kate’s mother-in-law, always referred to as Granny Rosie, becomes a media star by entertaining the neighbours gathered for the Thursday night Clap For Carers with a World War II playlist on her electric piano.
An Extra Pair of Hands is both an insight into what caring for someone involves – the joys and the moments of despair – and a call to action to those in a position to improve the lives of carers and the people they care for. As Kate observes, ‘Enjoy the good days, muddle through the bad days, and never take anything for granted.’ Not a bad motto to live by whatever your situation.
In three words: Insightful, moving, thought-provoking
About the Author
Kate Mosse is an international bestselling novelist, playwright and nonfiction author with sales of more than eight million copies in 38 languages. Renowned for bringing unheard and under-heard histories to life, she is a champion of women’s creativity. She is the Founder Director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, sits on the Executive Committee of Women of the World and is a Visiting Professor of Contemporary Fiction and Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. She lives in West Sussex with her husband and mother-in-law. (Photo credit: Twitter profile)