T. J. Klune meets Coronation Street! This is a heartwarming romance with more than a touch of the North about it.
Sixty four year-old Albert Entwistle lives a lonely life. He has worked as a Royal Mail postman for almost forty five years, and his work provides him with his only reason to interact with the rest of the world. Albert is a loner: he’s lived alone since the death of his parents and is terrified of other people. He lives a quiet life in which his main concern is to follow is routines and disappear into the background as much as possible. His only joy in life seems to come from the company of his much-loved cat.
When Albert receives the devastating news that he will be forced to retire at sixty five, he is hit with the reality that he may never speak to another person ever again. 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 and to seek the happiness that he has denied himself for so long. He decides to find the courage to search for George, the man that he once loved and has never forgotten. As he does, something extraordinary happens – he finds unlikely allies, friends and that the world has changed enough for him to embrace who he really is.
I’ll admit that it took me a while to get into this novel – it’s a little ‘twee’ in places, and as a Lancashire lass myself, I found some of the scenes of life in Northern England a little patronising in places. It features a string of rather ideallised events in the present day and a rather predictable ending.
However, I’m happy to look past most of this, as there is another side to ‘The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle’. The novel’s real strength is the way in which it depicts this horribly-closeted character, and the devastating reasons why he is so old when he finally feels able to come out as gay. The reality of LGBTQ+ history in the last half century is relayed in a simple manner, and the horrifying effects of prejudice and ignorance are clearly depicted in Albert’s character. There must be many people like Albert who have never felt comfortable expressing themselves, and I hope that this novel will help their neighbours, co-workers and family to be a little more gentle in their understanding.
I’m not quite sure how realistic the scenes of Albert’s coming out are, or indeed his change from recluse to extravert, but this story is told from a good place and it has at its centre a heart-warming romance, with some much-darker scenes set in the past. It’s an accesible text showing the damaging and wide-reaching effects of homophobia, the progress that has been made in recent years, and how far things still need to change.
Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for a copy of this book in return for my honest review.