The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81 by J.B. Morrison

Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.  

Title - The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick
Author - J.B. Morrison
Publisher - Pan Books
Publication Date - June 5th 2014 
Format - Kindle Edition 
Pages - 304

The blurb

Frank Derrick is eighty-one. And he's just been run over by a milk float. It was tough enough to fill the hours of the day when he was active. But now he's broken his arm and fractured his foot, it looks set to be a very long few weeks ahead. Frank lives with his cat Bill (which made more sense before Ben died) in the typically British town of Fullwind-on-Sea. The Villages in Bloom competition is the topic of conversation amongst his neighbours but Frank has no interest in that. He watches DVDS, spends his money frivolously at the local charity shop and desperately tries to avoid cold callers continuously knocking on his door. Emailing his daughter in America on the library computer and visiting his friend Smelly John used to be the highlight of his week. Now he can't even do that. Then a breath of fresh air comes into his life in the form of Kelly Christmas, home help. With her little blue car and appalling parking, her cheerful resilience and ability to laugh at his jokes, Kelly changes Frank's life. She reminds him that there is a big wide-world beyond the four walls of his flat and that adventures, however small, come to people of all ages. Frank and Kelly's story is sad, funny, moving, familiar, uplifting. It is a small and perfect look at a life neither remarkable nor disastrous, but completely extraordinary nonetheless. For fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry this is a quirky, life affirming story that has enormous appeal. And it's guaranteed to make you laugh. 

Becca's thoughts

This was brilliant. I very rarely read books that can make me cry with laughter the way this one did, but it did, and I'm pretty sure that I was smiling the entire way through it too. It was fantastic, a truly one of a kind novel. 

A big thank you to the publishers Pan Macmillan for accepting me for an eBook copy of this title via Net Galley. I also won a paperback copy of The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81 from a Twitter friend's competition, so that made it even better, because let's be real, nothing beats a proper book. And of course, a terrific round of applause for the author J.B. Morrison for creating this diamond of story, which I loved and will continue to love! 

The very first paragraph goes like this...

"On Frank Derrick's eighty-first birthday he was run over by a milk float. He would have preferred a book token or some cufflinks, but it's the thought that counts." 

And I think I was pretty much sold by that point on. Because who in their right mind would start a novel like that? J.B. Morrison. That's who. And I bloody love him for it, because truthfully, I didn't believe him. I kept thinking, maybe this is a dream that Frank's having? But no, it most definitely happened, and my eyes refused to look at anything else, except my Kindle screen. I think just from that first paragraph I knew I'd enjoy the rest too. I could just tell from the way that very first sentence was written. The sarcasm, the humor, whether it was meant to be funny or not, I was howling. How J.B. makes it sound like it's just another day in Frank Derrick's life where something goes drastically wrong. It was right up my street. 

  There are two main characters in the book. One being Frank Derrick, and the second being Kelly Christmas (cutest name ever?!). The entire novel is written in a third person narrative, all from Derrick's point of view.

Derrick was SUCH a fantastic character, I really wanted to reach inside of my Kindle, bring him out and take him to a show and tell, announcing him as my Grandad. He was brilliant. His dry humor, his life that revolved around avoiding cold-callers on the phone and at his door. His love of tinned spaghetti. His alphabetised DVD collection. The fact that he had dreams of turning his garden shed into a home cinema, and inviting people around to share his love of old movies. His daily trips to Fullwind Food & Wine and his local charity shop, where at one point he purchases a child's scooter with wheels that light up... But even though I found this all so entertaining and such a pleasure to read, I found myself beginning to grow bored. NOT the type of bored that would affect my reading of the novel, but bored on Derrick's behalf, I guess you could say. Every day, he did the same thing. He dealt with the same stuff. Okay, maybe now and again he'd pop to the library to email his daughter in America, but really, I began to feel like he was just *existing*. Until of course, that bloody milk float ran him over, and I suppose you could say that that damn milk float maybe changed his life for the better, because after Derrick returns home from the hospital with a broken arm and a fracture in his foot and gets in touch with his daughter to keep her updated, he is assigned Kelly as home help. 

Kelly Christmas was a beautiful, beautiful character! I adored her. I loved the way she flew into Derrick's life and finally gave him something to smile about. Kelly didn't mess around or beat around the bush. From the moment that she first entered Derrick's flat, she was like a breath of fresh air, bouncing from room to room, straightening things out, taking care of Derrick and boiling the kettle. It was, of course, inevitable what was going to happen. Frank begins to actually like Kelly, because out of all those days on his calendar, the days that Kelly visits are marked with a huge red cross, whereas the others continue to remain blank. On those marked Tuesdays, Derrick begins to feel that he has a purpose, that there is now a reason for him to get out of bed and maybe tidy up his flat a little bit. Kelly brings a sort of sunshine through the door with her, igniting up the spark inside of Derrick and returning him to life. Of course, home help doesn't last forever, as nothing does, but Derrick begins to live for every Tuesday, grumbling to himself whenever a bank holiday comes around. 

As well as Kelly's weekly visits, Derrick has to find ways to entertain himself  to make those much-loved Tuesdays come around quicker. He visits his friend Smelly John who has Ms in Greyflick House, where they play board games and put the world to rights. He buys junk from the charity shop. He watches his films, eats his spaghetti, and he begins to sell his things to buy more time with the lovely Kelly. As each week passes, Derrick can't bear the thought of Kelly no longer visiting. What made the relationship between these two so moving was just how quickly Derrick takes to Kelly. I think maybe not having his daughter around could have had something to do with it, but he really does begin to treasure her. Kelly also shows Derrick life beyond the four walls of his flat, by taking him on a trip to the beach and taking him shopping in a supermarket that is so huge Derrick can't believe his eyes. Suddenly, those Tuesdays that were once the same as any other day on his calendar are special. As the Tuesdays pass, and the last Tuesday draws ever closer, Derrick becomes desperate, and there's no telling what he will resort to, just to buy a little extra time with Kelly Christmas. 

Guys, seriously. This was gorgeous. Just the whole idea of Frank's grey life being brought into a rainbow focus had me feeling all warm and satisfied inside. I just feel so happy on Frank's behalf. I could feel his desperation to not let Kelly go, feel how badly he wanted her to stay so he could mark out another load of Tuesdays on his calendar. And it was heartbreaking but heartwarming at the same time... 

There was a lot of talk about old age in here, mainly Frank talking about himself and how being eighty-one automatically starts up a ton of stereotypical ideas in people's heads as soon as they find out his age. There's also mention of dementia and Ms, and beneath the sarcastic humor and jokey comments, there was a tiny undercurrent of seriousness in here too, which I thought balanced the whole plot out perfectly. 

Becca's Books is rating The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick by J.B. Morrison with four yummy looking cupcakes! This novel moved me, made me smile, and had me wiping away tears from my laughter. It was just a breath of fresh air to read about 81 year old man and his life and lifestyle. It was definitely something that I have read about before, which made it all the more interesting and eye-opening. J.B. Morrison, you legend! 



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