I loved this book. It’s completely different from the current vogue for psychological thrillers, murder mysteries and tense investigations.
As you may know, we love those too. I’m a sucker for crime thrillers, deep and baffling plots, and finding out whodunit at the end. But Love, Iris is so fresh and welcome. It’s a strangely soothing book, a long and rewarding family saga examining relationships between grandparents, mothers, wives, husbands and children. It’s quite gentle but extremely perceptive and warm. I can honestly say it made me feel better for reading it; it brings balm to the heart.
For most of us, our families are everything; and all families have dysfunctional aspects. Brothers don’t get on with sisters, daughters with mothers, husband with wives. Reconciling those differences affects our lives far more than most external crises, crime, even career.
In this book, Tess, a 35 year old unexpectedly pregnant by her ambitious boyfriend Sean, leaves him when he says a baby does not fit into his present plans. So Tess goes to live with her estranged mother, Donna, a restless woman with two failed marriages behind her and a difficult relationship with her only daughter.
Underpinning Tess and Donna’s difficulties is Iris, Donna’s mother and Tess’s grandma. Now 95, Iris is in a care home, gripped by dementia. Then there’s Gigi, a middle-aged nurse with three grown-up children and a baby granddaughter, trapped in a marriage with Richard who no longer even sees her, let alone appreciates her.
Judy told me this novel reminded her of Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles, the classic family saga so much loved over the years. Family relationships are gripping because they so much resemble our own; the family is always the defining lynchpin of our lives. Lee Child and Stephen King can write about dire conspiracies and nightmarish horrors. These are fascinating and diverting; Noble’s book is about real life.
Tess has a secret, but the only person she can tall to is her grandmother Iris, who is in the remorseless grip of dementia and slipping away. By chance, Tess meets Gigi, a warm motherly type who takes Tess under her wing. And then Tess discovers that Iris, too, has a secret of her own. She finds a suitcase of letters, missing pieces of a life Iris has never shared.
This is a heart-warming story about intensely female connections and relationships. Skilful and uplifting, it’s a tale of hope, loss and family secrets, exploring all the emotional threads which bind women together – parenthood, relationships with mothers and fathers, and the deep connections between friends.
Iris’s life draws to a close, but as happens in all our lives, new life brings a new dawn. Warm, heart-breaking but uplifting, Love Iris is a great emotional read.