For What It's Worth


Friday, October 21, 2022

Review: The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain, Narrated by Simon Vance

 

Albert Entwistle is a private man with a quiet, simple life. He lives alone with his cat Gracie. And he’s a postman. At least he was a postman until, three months before his sixty-fifth birthday, he receives a letter from the Royal Mail thanking him for decades of service and stating he is being forced into retirement.

At once, Albert’s sole connection with his world unravels. Every day as a mail carrier, he would make his way through the streets of his small English town, delivering letters and parcels and returning greetings with a quick wave and a “how do?” Without the work that fills his days, what will be the point? He has no friends, family, or hobbies—just a past he never speaks of, and a lost love that fills him with regret.

And so, rather than continue his lonely existence, Albert forms a brave plan to start truly living. It’s finally time to be honest about who he is. To seek the happiness he’s always denied himself. And to find the courage to look for George, the man that, many years ago, he loved and lost—but has never forgotten. As he does, something extraordinary happens. Albert finds unlikely allies, new friends, and proves it’s never too late to live, to hope, and to love. ~ Goodreads

Source: ALC (audio arc) provided by libro.fm in exchange for an honest review

Narrator: Simon Vance

Review: Oh lordy, I'm so rusty writing reviews but here goes...

Albert Entwistle spends his days delivering the mail in the small town of Toddington. The routine brings him comfort but he keeps everyone at arms length except for his beloved cat, Gracie.

Several months before Albert turns 65, he receives a notice from the Royal Mail letting him know that his services will no longer be needed and he is being forced into retirement after his birthday. Albert is crushed. Although the job doesn't bring him joy - he has stuffed down so many secrets and feelings over the years that losing that routine and security fills him with fear. Then a life changing event occurs SPOILER -> His cat Gracie dies from cancer, She is elderly but it's over Christmas and it's very depressing <- that leaves him longing for connection. The problem is, he has no idea how to do that after pushing people away for so long. 

Cain weaves in the backstory of Albert's childhood in the 70's, growing up in love with a boy named George, during a time where it was illegal to be openly gay and as the son of an extremely homophobic, policeman father. He's lived his entire life frozen by the vile words spewed by his father about "those people" and the fear that society will still feel the same way if anyone sees a hint of who he really is. Even so, he decides it's time to start living and maybe even find George. 

He starts by taking baby steps, beginning with his neighbor - a young, single Black mom, who is also having a rough go of things, to help  with technology aspects of looking up George. Slowly, his circle begins to widen and he lets small pieces of himself seep out. Albert is both shocked and delighted by the response he gets from people he didn't even think noticed him.

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle is a gentle little story that says it's never to late for new beginnings and family isn't something that needs to be connected by blood. 

I say the story is gentle, and it is, but it was also deeply sad to read about Albert's past, watch him struggle so hard just to summon the courage to speak to people (I relate) while the people he forms new ties with are also going through tough things. It could be a real downer at times.

However, it was a joy to watch Albert (& those around him) blossom into this whole new life he didn't think was attainable or that he deserved. There were also the beautiful little connections he made - acts of kindness, both great and small - that made huge impacts.

If anything, I would say things went too well for everyone by the end. Everything just slotted into place, maybe too easily, but I could hardly begrudge that. It couldn't happen to a better group of people. 

The author noted that he wanted to use Albert and George's story to explore the changes towards LGBQT from the 1970's to present day in British society and includes letters from gay men about their experiences from that time. I'm not sure that is included in the print version, I listened to the audiobook, but it was a nice touch.  

I've seen this book compared to Fredrik Backman's books but I can't say. I did find it similar to TJ Klune though - without the whimsy.

CW: death of an elderly cat - cancer, death of a terminally ill child, racism, bullying, parental bullying/homophobia, general "joking" homophobic comments. There may be more but that's what I remember. 

29 comments:

  1. Sounds like such a well crafted story here. I am happy to see that this one was such a win for you, I should definitely look for those more "gentle" stories

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    1. Not my usual read but I liked it, overall.

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  2. A lot has changed since the 70's although we still have a long ways to go, seems like. sounds like a touching story. Glad this was good even if it was emotionally tough at times.

    Oh my gosh your Halloween dancing skeleton pic is hilarious! :)

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    1. It has, yet me seem to be backtracking. Lots of hope and happiness in the end but sad getting there.

      It's my favorite holiday!! Lol

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    2. Same here. I'm almost sad and we still have a week. :)

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  3. This sounds like a beautiful story. I don't know if I can deal with all of the sadness right now but I'll keep my eye out for library copy.

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    1. It's ultimately uplifting and happy but... yeah, he's led a sad life.

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  4. I love your Halloween banner! :D

    Sounds like a beautiful story. I'm going to add it to my TBR. I've realized I really love reading books about more mature characters seizing the day. It reminds me to do it for myself.

    Interestingly enough, this review coincides with my watching the first two episodes of the current season of American Horror Story last night. The main plot seems to be about gay men are being slaughtered in 19080s NYC. The police are homophobes so they don't want to do anything about it and the people in the police force who are closeted are torn between being accepted and being their true selves.

    It's hard to see and be reminded of how LGBTQ+ people were treated back then. I'm sure you felt that in this novel too. As a society we definitely need to do more AND we've come a long way. It's sad to think that we're only as far as we are in terms of equality and acceptance.

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    1. Thank you!

      I find that too - books with characters like that help re-center me.

      Another great book is Like A Love Story by Abdi Nazemian. It's a YA about the AIDS crisis in the 80's (& a love story lol). It's fantastic.

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  5. I love the idea that you're never too old to find your happy, and I love when every character gets a nice ending. It makes me happy.

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    1. There were so many sad situations. Even if it was a little too rosy and perfect how it ended they all SO deserved it.

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  6. I like the new Halloween theme on your blog.
    This sounds like a good one.

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  7. Someone on TikTok was raving about this one. It does sound like one that would hit all the various emotions - sadness, but also joy.

    Lauren @ www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. The sadness could be overwhelming at times but they all got a very well earned HEA

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  8. I can see where it would be rewarding to see Albert come out of his shell and make new connections, but it seems like there's also a heavy does of sad stuff, too. Sometimes perfect endings tied up with a bow annoy me, but sometimes it just feels right. :)

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    1. They do annoy me lol but poor Albert really deserved his tied up with a bow HEA by the end!

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  9. Interesting. I'm glad you ended up enjoying it. I do love hearing authors talk about there work, especially if there is something specific about why they wrote what they did.

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    1. It just kind of put it in historical context too. Nice touch.

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  10. That reminds me, I should write a review!! ugh, I am getting lazy

    Hm, maybe, who knows

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  11. What sounds like a lovely little read, I can see the book club I go to loving this.

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  12. Rusty, or not... you've made me want to read this book. I'm adding it to Goodreads. 📘✨

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  13. You know, I actually got a pin for this book at a library conference! It sounded really sweet, especially since it's based on true events. I totally get not loving it when things wrap up too nicely.

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    1. I was actually fine with it on this case. It was too neat but they all SO deserved their happy endings.

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  14. Aww this sounds so sweet. Sad but sweet. I don't mind sometimes when things work out too perfectly. I think some books need that.

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    1. I don't necessarily believe it would work this way in real life but I was happy about it lol

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