There has been much discussion recently in the Facebook group Books for Older Readers. Is this the right name for this emerging genre, we ask – and what types of books does it actually include?
Is the word older problematic or just honest? Do other words such as third-ager have an uncomfortable touch of the euphemism about them? Should the books feature older characters and tackle the issues, good and bad, that come with later life? Or should they be written by older writers?
All valid questions – so I asked a few of myself. Do I mind being called ‘older’? No, not really, it’s just a matter of fact. I could equally accept being called a ‘third-ager’ – but I understand that public perception counts for much and that it’s important to get this right. And what kinds of books am I attracted to, as an ‘older’ reader? Well, many kinds. But I admit I feel most at ease with the work of older writers.
Don’t misunderstand me – there is nothing wrong with youthful writing, and I enjoy that, too. It often contains a freshness and vitality that time mellows out of us as we grow older. But those excellent qualities are replaced by the benefits of experience and its unfashionable side-kick, wisdom. Both often go unappreciated in a world obsessed with youth, and perhaps it is time to redress the balance a little.
Experience can be a solid counterbalance to hasty reaction, the wisdom of age saying: wait – let’s check it out before we jump on the bandwagon of praise or outrage. All may not be as it seems; experience (sometimes bitter experience) tells us this, and it informs the work of the older writer.
So, for whatever my opinion might be worth, let’s use this new genre not only to address the issues of later life, but to celebrate older writers, too. They can shine a quieter, more thoughtful light on a world absorbed with speed, progress and instant gratification. Let’s promote and cherish them.
A story with a young heroine – but much to say about inter-generational misunderstanding: ebook available for pre-order, paperback available now – Whales and Strange Stars
A sea captain passes through the forgotten port of Wych Ferry, and whiles away an hour relating his traveller’s tales to young Rosamund Euden. He tells her that the stars are different, if you sail far enough, that the horizon isn’t quite real, not when you get there; he speaks of sea serpents and whales, and mysterious islands. To an impressionable girl who has never left her home, the whales and strange stars of his stories come to symbolise the great outside world she longs to see. The sea captain moves on, unaware of the dramatic events he has set in action as Rosamund’s search for adventure leads her into a world of dangerous secrets in the marshlands of eighteenth century Kent. Torn between loyalty to her uncles, and her desire to discover what lies beyond the marshes, Rosamund seeks help from an unexpected source. But who can she really trust?
To be published by Crooked Cat Books, 16 January, 2018