Book Review: The Marmalade Diaries by Ben Aitken

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

This is really a story of the current age, we’ve all been through the same period(s) of lockdowns and restrictions and have our own tales to tell but The Marmalade Diaries presents quite a heartwarming story of a rather eccentric odd couple.

I was worried starting out, that this book might become a bit repetitive given that it was written under Covid conditions when many of us were living very limited and repetitive lives ourselves. But that is not the case, sure there are the daily tasks that Ben completes for Winnie, like lighting the fire but these are a unique perspective to a wider discourse at the time.

As Winnie’s and Ben’s relationship develops this becomes a much more heartwarming story. If you’ve ever had an elderly relative living alone like Winnie I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to some of the diary entries. Winnie’s memory issues and her love for her family, particularly her disabled son is clear but you can’t help think as the diary entries unfold that time is not on Winnie or Ben’s side.

This is a great story told over a relatively short period of time of two people stuck together in unlikely conditions. Ultimately Winnie has a very quick wit and really steals the show from Ben but the ‘odd couple’ appeal and interactions between them are a bit of soul food for the pandemic age.

I’d recommend reading this, but I think would advise that if you have an elderly relative in a similar situation then you might want to have a box of tissues handy for some of the more touching moments.

From The Publisher

From the author of The Gran Tour, a portrait of an intergenerational friendship.

Recently widowed, Winnie, 84, was in need of some companionship. Someone to help with the weekly food shop and offer tips on the crossword. Ben, 34, was looking for a new housemate.

As the UK was locked down in 2020, Ben and Winnie’s lives interwove, forming an unlikely friendship, where lessons were learnt (heat the red wine in the oven with the plates; preserve or pickle whatever you can; never throw anything away) and grief, both personal and that of a nation, was explored.

Charting both their time together, and the details of Winnie’s life that are shared with Ben in fragments, The Marmalade Diaries, from the author of The Gran Tour, is a very human exploration of home, of the passage time, of the growing relationship between an odd couple, told with warmth, wit and candour.

About The Author

Ben Aitken was born under Thatcher, grew to six foot then stopped, and is an Aquarius. He is the author of Dear Bill Bryson: Footnotes from a Small Island (2015) and A Chip Shop in Poznan: My Unlikely Year in Poland (2019), ‘one of the funniest books of the year’ (Paul Ross, talkRadio).

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. No other payment has been received.