The Marmalade Diaries by Ben Aitken #BookReview #IconBooks #NetGalley #5*

From the author of the acclaimed THE GRAN TOUR


When hunting for a room in London, Ben Aitken came across one for a great price in a lovely part of town. There had to be a catch. And there was. The catch was Winnie: an 85-year-old widow who doesn’t suffer fools.

Full of warmth, wit and candour, The Marmalade Diaries tells the story of an unlikely friendship during an unlikely time. Imagine an intergenerational version of Big Brother, but with only two contestants. One of the pair a grieving and inflexible former aristocrat in her mid-eighties. The other a working-class millennial snowflake. What could possibly go wrong? What could possibly go right?

Out of the most inauspicious of soils – and from the author of The Gran Tour – comes a book about grief, family, friendship, loneliness, life, love, lockdown and marmalade.

Marvellously Entertaining!

It’s not often I venture into the world of non-fiction but I was attracted to this one – and it is one terrific read!

Ben is a young man of the 21st century; with little hope of affording to buy a home in London, he is looking for a room to rent when he comes across one at a cost which appeals in a great part of town – so what’s the catch? Well, it comes in the shape of 85-year-old Winnie, whose family, deciding she can no longer lives alone, have advertised for a lodger to help out a bit, hence the affordable cost. Very much set in her ways, this is the story of how Winnie and Ben managed to rub along together during lockdown – when they weren’t rubbing each other up the wrong way!

The first thing which strikes me about this one is how absolutely perfect the title is! Whoever came up with that earns a very big pat on the head – it couldn’t be bettered. Ben is a young man who freely admits that he doesn’t know much about the privileged kind of life that Winnie has lived; Winnie, on the other hand, is a woman who likes to think she knows it all and, let’s face it, she does know an awful lot! The house is huge, but she has lived there for a long time and is grieving for her late husband, Henry, but – as women, especially of her generation, are wont to do, she carries on with her day to day life. Ben is, to begin with at least, a necessary evil in her life which allows her to remain in her beloved home and, to begin with, she views him with suspicion. However, as any two people who are thrown together, they soon learn how to live with each other and who knows? They may even learn something to their benefit! This is a truly wonderful story, entertaining all the way through and at times I could recognise anything from a little to a lot of myself in each of them. A delightful read which shows the ‘May to December’ relationship quite beautifully and the story is told with warmth and humour. Marvellously entertaining and honest to the very core, I just adored everything about this novel and can’t recommend it highly enough. Add it to your reading list – you won’t regret it! Easily earns all five glowing stars!

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this novel via NetGalley; this is – as always – my honest, original and unbiased review.

Tags: non-fiction

Author Details

Ben Aitken was born under Thatcher, grew to six foot then stopped, and is an Aquarius. He is the author of Dear Bill Bryson: Footnotes from a Small Island (2015, 2022), A Chip Shop in Poznań: My Unlikely Year in Poland (2019) and The Gran Tour: Travels with my Elders (2020).

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