To involve oneself with the infinitely deprived means you take on a weight of guilt. They need so much: you can give so little. This is one of the hard facts that attractive, intelligent magazine editor Janna Somers has to confront when, for the first time in her life, she allows herself to become involved.
For most of her forty-nine years, all Janna's energies had been devoted to presenting an efficient and capable face to the world, to concealing her own vulnerability. And she had succeeded remarkably well: her smart career flourished, while the deaths of her mother and her husband - and with him an emotionally sterile marriage - left her feeling blank and detached.
The, one day, Janna meets a tiny bent old woman called Maudie Fowler in a chemists shop - and from this chance encounter grows an extraordinary relationship between the two women. On the surface, the chasm between them is enormous. Janna: elegant, pushy, middle-aged career woman. Maudie: slow, old, troublesome and needy. Yet they touch off in each other deep sympathies that evolve into a powerful and indestructible symbiosis.
Her relationship with Maudie exposes Janna to many aspects of herself that have previously remained buried and leads her to look with fresh eyes at our societys callous disregard for the loneliness, deprivation and suffering of the old. Finally, Janna comes to understand that, however great the hurdles of everyday life, the most difficult task of all is to die.
Written with an extraordinary mixture of strength and sensitivity, The Diary of a Good Neighbour is a quite remarkable novel that will continue to haunt you long after you have put it down.
Jane Somers is the pseudonym for a well-known woman journalist.