GETTING THE PICTURE by Sarah Salway
This turned out to be a good choice because it was completely different. It was funny, fast-paced and based almost entirely in an old-people's home (a great idea for a setting!). In the early 1960s two friends go to a photographer called Martin. One girl, Pat (although she prefer Trish because it annoys her mother) has come to have a rather risqué photograph taken. Her friend, Maureen (Mo) is shy and less adventurous. And as Sarah Salway's novel astutely implies: it is the unattainable that turns out to be most desirable. It is inhibited Mo, the mother of a young child called Nell and wife of accountant George, and who refuses to remove any clothes at all - who is the one that becomes Martin's fantasy and obsession.
Many years later Martin is still writing letters to Maureen (even though Maureen is by this time dead) and has managed to find his way into a home alongside George, Maureen's husband. What follows is a carefully plotted story with a set of characters who are well observed and recognisable. All the information (except for the very beginning and the end) is conveyed by letter, email, answerphone, and sometimes by hastily scribbled notes. Like monologues, these one-sided conversations are effective - the reply and the reaction of the recipient remains in the imagination, and are all the richer for that.
I particularly liked the way my conception of the characters changed as they became more and more involved in the plot. Human weaknesses are exposed in a gently humorous way and the ending is satisfying. There are also some good pieces of writerly advice along the way. Altogether an entertaining story about unrequited love.