How long is a life? Time is relative. Does a life that ends far sooner than most seem short to the young person who is about to die? What about someone who lives well into old age? Does time telescope and condense behind them? Do they feel they’ve been alive any longer than someone who dies in their teens?
This wonderful book forces us to think about such conundrums. Largely, it’s a story of memories: those of Lenni, who at 17 years old is living through her final days on a hospital terminal ward, and, in the ward next door, Margot’s, whose memories stretch back more than eighty years.
This is such a tender, funny, and uplifting story. Lenni and Margot realise that at 17 and 83, their ages total a perfect century; a shared 100 years on life’s spinning carousel. To commemorate the fact, they decide to paint the key moments of their personal stories in the hospital’s art class.
The paintings, and the deeply intimate tales they tell, are really about the extraordinary gift of life all of us share. Both women know they are nearing the very end of their lives, and that knowledge gives them wonderful, penetrating insights. And yet although time is now running out – or perhaps because of that – Lenni’s and Margot’s life-forces burn brighter than ever. An absolutely terrific read.