My enormous thanks to Sabah at Avon books for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for The Woman Who Kept Everything by Jane Gilley. I’m delighted to be able to share an extract from the novel with you today.
Published by Harper Collins imprint Avon, The Woman Who Kept Everything is available for purchase through these links.
The Woman Who Kept Everything
The Lady in the Van meets The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry in this uplifting, funny and moving debut novel about a 79-year-old hoarder who is convinced the world is against her.
79-year-old Gloria Frensham is a hoarder. She lives amongst piles of magazines, cardboard boxes and endless knick-knacks that are stacked into every room of her home, and teeter in piles along the landing and up the stairs.
She hasn’t left the house in years, but when a sudden smell of burning signifies real danger, she is forced to make a sudden departure and leave behind her beloved possessions.
Determined she’s not ready for a care home, Gloria sets out to discover what life still has to offer her. It’s time to navigate the outside world on her own, one step at a time, with just one very small suitcase in tow…
Heart-warming and poignant in equal measure, this is a story about the loneliness of life, the struggles of growing old, the power of kindness, and the bravery it takes to leave our comfort zones.
An Extract from The Woman Who Kept Everything
A few days after the people from the electricity board came to check on the situation, three people from social services turned up; one with a clipboard. They looked official, to Gloria, with their curt smiles and long dark coats. She would’ve said they were calm and sympathetic, if someone’d asked. But they didn’t look that way after their first encounter with 75 Briar Way.
They came into her house, sniffing the air and gagging for some reason. One of them, a man, ran out muttering something. Gloria found it amusing. Tilsbury went round shrugging.
‘Must’ve eaten summat off before they came here.’
The plump, friendlier woman who finally arrived later that first day, Diane, was the most understanding, but even she had a strongly scented handkerchief she kept wafting across her face. Gloria screwed her nose up at the smell and stood a little distance away from her. She wasn’t keen on heavy perfumes.
Oh, but there was nowhere to sit per se. That was the tricky thing about having more than one person over at any one time. And in order to be courteous, Tilsbury had to clamber over a lot of stuff, upstairs, to get the stool off the top of Gloria’s bedside dressing table, so Diane could sit down in the tiny bit of space between the hall and kitchen door. Gloria leant against the architrave and rested her burnt hand on a stack of crumpled magazines.
Now that Diane had finished looking around – her mouth gaping in awe, her handkerchief not far from her nose – she said that her mother had been just like Gloria when Diane’s grandparents died. Couldn’t quite accept it; still didn’t; in a nursing home now.
‘Much better for her. All her woes dealt with and she’s properly cared for.’
Gloria didn’t really know what the woman was talking about. She wasn’t interested to know something about someone she didn’t know and would never know and, anyway, her hand ached. She grimaced as she tried to reposition it.
‘Oh my, that hand looks sore, love. Should’ve wrapped it in cling film or something clean if you had it. But, anyway, don’t you worry about all that, now. We’ve got to get you away from here and do some sorting out,’ Diane informed her, with a bright smile.
Gloria shook her head solemnly. ‘Don’t want to go anywhere else. Been here so many years, ducks, and I certainly don’t want to go anywhere now.’
‘I know that, Gloria! But we’ve, um, we’ve got to sift through all this – er – this stuff to try and find where the electrics blew. Your house’s become a bit of a fire hazard now, so we’re taking you somewhere safe while we sort things out. And that hand of yours needs looking at.’
Clegg appeared at that precise moment, his large frame filling the already clogged front doorway. He was sweating and also trying not to gag. He squeezed past them to try and look at the kitchen, pushing boxes and piles of magazines aside in his attempt to get through, but then he stopped, deciding against it.
(I wonder how many of us have experienced something similar with a person we know or love? It really makes me want to get stuck in to The Woman Who Kept Everything Right away.)
About Jane Gilley
Jane Gilley was born in Nottingham and now lives on the beautiful island of Jersey, with her husband, a rabbit and a Senegal parrot.
Following a career in Interior Design and after writing 6 children’s books, Jane now writes adult books full time.
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