All the Lonely People
by Mike Gayle
Championed by Emma Rowson at Emma R
Hodder & Stoughton (July 2020)
I was feeling lost as ‘Mummy’, wanting to pursue something new and entirely different when the idea of a book blog fell into my head. Almost three years later, I’m so thankful for the way it has connected me with the wonderful bookish community and for the incredible books I have read which I may not have otherwise come across.
Later that same year I returned to university to study for an MA in Creative Writing, and I now work as a Freelance Copywriter with aspirations to one day write my own novel. Until then, I’m cherishing the writing successes I’ve had so far with a couple of publications and shortlists to my name.
“An antidote to the seemingly endless slug of this pandemic, All the Lonely People is a joyful reminder of the power we have as people to affect the lives of others…”
All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle
I remember so clearly how I felt when I finished reading All the Lonely People. My cheeks were still hot with tears whilst I simultaneously felt the warm, fuzzy joy you only feel when you’ve read a book you truly loved. I held my fingers above my laptop to write a review, and none of the words that ran through my head seemed to be enough to sum up this gorgeous book.
This character-centred novel focuses on Hubert Bird, an OAP living in Bromley who has cut himself off from life, instead creating a fantasy existence to relay to his daughter who lives on the other side of the world. Predominantly told from his point of view, the narrative slides between the present day and chronological flashbacks, starting with his youth in Jamaica and reflecting on his decision to emigrate to England.
What a character Hubert Bird is! Mike Gayle writes about Hubert with such sensitivity and authenticity that he practically walked off the pages, taking residence in my mind. Initially aloof when approached by his new neighbour Ashleigh, a single mother to a young daughter, Layla, there is an aura of sadness surrounding his character which indicates that there is far more to his tale than his simply being a grumpy old man.
The core of this novel is the developing friendship between Hubert and Ashleigh. Two people from different generations with completely different life experiences, bound together by loneliness. As the title suggests, it’s a recurring theme throughout, and one that will resonate with many people, especially at the moment. It really gives pause for thought too. Loneliness isn’t exclusively reserved for old age, and it is explored here in many guises.
All the Lonely People is a story about life, and most importantly about people. About how we shape one another – often without even realising, whether it be good or bad. In love, friendship, as family or mere acquaintances, each of us have the power to affect the lives of others. A sense of community is too often underrated, and yet the power a group of people can wield as a force for good, is quite remarkable – as is the case here.
Heart-breaking yet life affirming, All the Lonely People is filled with friendship, love and hope. It is quite simply a triumph.