If you follow my blog you’ll know that I mainly read and review fiction books. However sometimes a non-fiction book comes my way and I think I’ve got to read that! That is exactly what I thought when I was approached to read and review The Marmalade Diaries by author Ben Aitken.
I wanted to read this book for two reasons; one, I absolutely love marmalade (marmalade on toast is one of my favourite breakfasts), and secondly, this book seemed so appealing and endearing from the description. Spoiler alert: although the title of this book is very fitting, believe it or not, it actually does not feature that much marmalade! For all you marmalade lovers out there, I hope you’re not too disappointed by this revelation. However please be reassured that you are still in for a bittersweet treat if you read this lockdown diary.
As Ben states in the prologue “Marmalade is in the title because I consumed it each morning during one of the strangest years of my life.” It is the true account of 30 something Ben who is a ‘working-class millennial snowflake‘ and 85 year old Winnie, an ‘inflexible former aristocrat,’ two strangers who become very unlikely housemates during lockdown.
Following the death of her husband, Winnie lived alone in her detached six bedroom house in a lovely area of London. Ben, looking for a room to rent discovered a spare room in Winnie’s house that was going for a great price. In return for the cheap rent, he was also tasked with doing some odd jobs, such as fetching the coal and lighting the fire each morning. However neither Ben or Winnie realised that a ‘strict and protracted national lockdown‘ would commence ten days after he moved in. What follows is Ben’s heart warming and often funny account of his time coping with Winnie’s many idiosyncrasies. Winnie does not suffer fools gladly and I loved her for that.
However The Marmalade Diaries is also full of poignancy and sadness as Winnie is still grieving her dead husband. She is also frustrated and in my view heartbroken that she is not allowed to see her son Arthur who has cerebral palsy and lives in care home just a few streets away.
Although Ben is often frustrated by Winnie, and at times may feel a bit hurt by her ways, he is patient and caring which I found truly beautiful. He grows to understand her and an unlikely and endearing friendship develops that I adored.
However Ben’s time spent living with Winnie comes to an abrupt end which broke my heart. I think it may have also broken Ben’s heart. I thoroughly enjoyed this life affirming book. The only thing missing for me at the end is an epilogue as I wanted to know more about Ben and Winnie after the cruelty of life got in the way and they couldn’t live together anymore.
The Marmalade Diaries was initially released in hardback March 2022, but has very recently become available in paperback (3 November 2022). Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of the blog tour of this intergenerational, heart warming memoir.
To follow the blog tour, please see below.