VINTAGE BOOK REVIEW: The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

A moving, funny, heartwarming tale of love and friendship, for anyone who loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryThe Keeper of Lost Things and Three Things about Elsie.

It's never too late to grow old disgracefully ...

The life of 79-year-old pensioner Peggy Smart is as beige as the décor in her retirement village. Her week revolves around aqua aerobics and appointments with her doctor. The highlight of Peggy's day is watching her neighbour Brian head out for his morning swim.

Peggy dreams of inviting the handsome widower - treasurer of the Residents' Committee and one of the few eligible men in the village - to an intimate dinner. But why would an educated man like Brian, a chartered accountant no less, look twice at Peggy? As a woman of a certain age, she fears she has become invisible, even to men in their eighties.

But a chance encounter with an old school friend she hasn't seen in five decades - the glamorous fashionista Angie Valentine - sets Peggy on an unexpected journey of self-discovery. Can she channel her 'inner Helen Mirren' and find love and friendship in her twilight years?

My Thoughts:

Tired, over-worked, and under-appreciated, I was facing a pre-dawn flight down to Melbourne and wanted something to read that would help brighten my day. I reached for The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell, which has the tagline ‘a moving, funny, heart-warming tale of love and community.’ It sounded perfect. And it was perfect! I was chuckling to myself even before the plane’s wheels had left the tarmac.


Peggy Smart is 79½. She lives at the Jacaranda Retirement Village. Her biggest fear is being moved to a nursing home by her over-protective children. Her greatest pleasure is watching Brian, the cute widower from across the street, head out for his daily swim, his towel draped across his gently sloping shoulders, a tangle of white hair on his bony chest. Then one day she encounters an old friend from her past. Angie Valentine is skinny and glamorous, has had four husbands and a jetsetter life. Peggy can’t help being a little jealous. And worried that Brian will fall for her charms. And afraid that Angie will find her as boring as her wardrobe of comfortable beige elastic-waisted pants.


She could not have imagined what changes meeting Angie again would bring …


I loved this book. It’s as warm and funny as it promised, but also deals with real issues of ageing such as loneliness, fear, and vulnerability. Peggy’s voice is a delight. I particularly loved her malapropisms (the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar sounding one).


Here is one that made me laugh out loud:

‘I’m sure we didn’t have all these allergies in our day,’ said Brian, pulling out onto the main road. ‘I blame the disinfectants. The ones that kill 99.9% of all germs.’ 

‘I couldn’t agree more. People these days are so careful, I never minded about having a few harmless orgasms on the kitchen workshop, even when the kids were still living at home…’


An utter delight!

Kate Forsyth
Written by

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