It was only after the death of her husband that Janna Somers began to suspect how much she had missed in her marriage. In If the Old Could, she falls seriously in love for the first time in her life.
Janna is in her fifties. So is Richard Curtis, who loves her. The lives of both are already set. Both have responsibilities: Richard has a family; Janna has taken charge of her two nieces and is next of kin to a lonely old woman. But they manage to enjoy a brief and dazzling summer, making the most of every stolen afternoon. But is it Richard Curtis whom Janna loves? Or is it her husband she sees in Richard, and whose presence seems everywhere, even in her sleep?
Throughout a long and faithful marriage, Richard has loved the cold and ambitious wife who has taken him for granted. Janna sees, in his frustrations, what she made her own husband endure. And they both know that - while they dream of having met at the right age to marry - if they had married, Janna would have treated Richard as she did her husband, for her insights came too late.
This ironical and penetrating novel is full of people and situations that mirror each other; and the young people in it are like their elders when young. Janna, watching her clever and ambitious niece Jill treating her flatmate as if his rights in her can go just so far, aches with the need to warn her, but of course cannot... since the young do not know...
As a counterpoint to all these energetic and accomplished characters with their busy lives into which love has to be fitted where there is time, there are people of the other sort - those who cannot cope, measure up, get themselves together, are inadequate and helpless.
If the Old Could is a distinguished sequel to the highly acclaimed The Diary of a Good Neighbour. Like its predecessor, it is a wry, challenging and exceptionally perceptive novel for adults of all ages.
Jane Somers is the pseudonym for a well-known woman journalist.