This is an unassuming, but charming book. It’s about a middle-aged man, Tim Gandy, with grown children who’s just retired and is finding life rather flat. He and his wife have grown apart over the years. He finds that he has somehow, become a spectator in his own life, and now that he no longer has a job, his wife has taken to directing his days. He’s dissatisfied with the shape his life has taken, but he doesn’t quite know what to do about it.
His wife dies unexpectedly, and while there’s grief, he has a sense of relief as well. He feels like he’s finally free to make his own choices and maybe live out a few of his dreams.
One of his dreams was to take a grand tour of Europe, the way aristocrats of the eighteenth century used to do. So, he makes his plans and decides to set off. This book is an account of his experiences on this journey. He goes to Paris, to Monaco, and then on to Italy. It’s when he’s walking around Paris that he rediscovers his love of art and starts painting again.
He goes to all these great places and he meets a lot of interesting and quirky people. He’s on an adventure and he’s open to everything, so he tries things he hasn’t tried before, he lets himself go with the flow and makes unexpected friendships, finds a bit of romance and has a delightful time on the whole. He also learns a few things about himself. His journey is as much about self-discovery as it is about the people and the places that he encounters.
The writing is good, though not exceptional. The real strength of the book lies in the character of the protagonist who you can’t help but like, and the descriptions of all these beautiful places, seen through the eyes of Tim Gandy who seems to have retained the openness to life and the sense of wonder that we often associate with the young.
Some parts of the book may seem a bit improbable, but that doesn’t take away from the experience of it. It’s a sweet book and an easy read, but it is not predictable. There are a few surprises and unexpected events, so the book keeps your attention to the end.