Review: The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Nell

Title: The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home

Author: Joanna Nell

Published: 27th October 2020, Hachette Australia

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Hachette Australia/ Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home is a charming novel proving you’re never too old for a fresh start from Joanna Nell.

After 89-year-old Miss (never Mrs or Ms) Hattie Bloom breaks her hip from a fall in her backyard, she is dismayed to be told she must spend four to six weeks convalescing at the Woodlands Nursing Home. A recluse, far more more comfortable with birds than people, she is desperate return to the sandstone cottage she was born in, particularly concerned for the welfare of a pair of nesting owls in a tree her new neighbours are threatening to fell. When an ill-timed escape attempt is frustrated by a traffic jam, Hattie resigns herself to the temporary encroachments on her privacy and independence, agreeing to repairs on her home that might let her leave her sooner.

Ninety-year-old Walter Clements, recovering from a car accident, is also determined to return to his suburban home sooner rather than later. To that end, the former driver instructor agrees to humour his daughter and the DON (Director of Nursing) and undertake an assessment to show he is capable of safely managing a mobility scooter. Walter is outraged when a few small mistakes, which includes running over his examiner’s foot, destroying an antique table, and knocking over newcomer, Miss Hattie Bloom, scuppers his chances.

It’s not the most auspicious start to a relationship but nevertheless a friendship slowly blossoms between Hattie and Walter, despite their oppositional temperaments. Where Hattie is reserved and aloof, Walter is loud and gregarious, they actually remind me a little of my own grandparents (and coincidentally my grandfather was also named Walter). Both are well-developed characters, depicted with authenticity and warmth. Hattie, a naturalist and author, who has spent almost her entire life alone by choice, slowly opens up as she becomes enmeshed in the fabric of Woodlands. Walter is occasionally inappropriate, a little bewildered by today’s mores, fond of a glass or three of whiskey, and an incurable optimist, though not without regrets. Though he hopes to go home, he is making the best of his time in Woodlands.

Nell draws on her experience as a GP visiting nursing homes, to provide some insight into the routines, successes and failures of institutional care. Woodlands certainly seems better than many which have made news headlines due to abuse and neglect, however it’s still an institution and as such rules and regulations often override common sense practice. This is evident when night nurse Bronwyn is fired after her aged black lab Queenie, accidentally knocks over and injures one of the residents. Bronwyn is a favourite of many of the Home’s residents, not the least because of her unofficial night time ‘club’, the Night Owls, that provides and encourages activities for the sleepless.

Hattie and Walter’s antics are delightful, though not without a hint of poignancy. They bond over their plan to have Bronwyn reinstated, assisted by Murray, another resident who has become a close friend of Walter (men are severely outnumbered in Woodlands) but is bedridden. Nell doesn’t shy away from portraying the difficult realities of ageing, and Murray’s approaching demise, and his desire to go home one last time, is treated sensitively.

The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home is a witty, charming, and heartwarming novel, recommended for the old, and not so old alike.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I HiveUK

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carol
    Nov 04, 2020 @ 17:55:36

    Love stories with older characters!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. Susan Legg
    Nov 04, 2020 @ 18:12:45

    Night sure I want to know what’s ahead of me however from the review it’s sounds like a lovely warm humoured story of ‘oldies’ & their outlook on life, not without a few antics.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. Brona
    Nov 04, 2020 @ 21:53:08

    Well, obviously, I love that one of the characters is named Bronwyn 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  4. Yvonne (It's All About Books)
    Nov 05, 2020 @ 01:01:28

    Wonderful review!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  5. Linda Moore
    Nov 05, 2020 @ 01:43:22

    Very nice review.
    This book sounds nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  6. Kathryn
    Nov 05, 2020 @ 07:38:11

    I’ve read her other books, she certainly knows how to write compassionately about this time of lfe.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  7. Jennifer
    Nov 05, 2020 @ 10:15:22

    Terrific review, Shelleyrae. It’s a lovely story. I really enjoyed it as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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