Full Steam Ahead for an Enjoyable Voyage
The plotline of the novel centres around two contrasting women in late middle age. The first, Suzy, surely owes much of her experience and quite a bit of her character to Celia Imrie, her creator. She is an experienced actor, a confident and resourceful woman who is clearly attractive to others and fun to be with. The other, Amanda, differs completely. She has been cheated on by her husband, and is repeatedly used and ignored in turn by her unpleasant, grown up children. She seems totally indecisive and unassertive.
Both women suffer difficulties : Suzy is struggling to get acting work as she ages, and takes a part, albeit a plum role, in a third rate Swiss based production; Amanda finds herself homeless when her house move goes sour and her children refuse to help. Through the uncertain ebbs and flows of time and fate the two cross paths on board a luxury liner, The Blue Mermaid. Here both women, along with many others who are afloat, have the opportunity to re-invent themselves and play out a different version of their stories.
Against the delightfully portrayed backdrop of the ship, Imrie weaves a multi layered, twisting tale. At times the ship seems herself to be a character, or indeed a theatrical set. There are many references to plays, films and TV within the narrative, reminding us of the special quality of proximity to strangers along with isolation from the ‘real’ world which exists on board. Many of the passengers and crew are not quite what they seem, and at the heart of the story there is real evil.
I admire Celia Imrie as an actor, and was delighted to find her voice in this charming novel. There is a genteel, old fashioned feel to the world she creates on board the ship, full of kindness and honesty. This world is threatened by the intrusion of rudeness, greed, violence and amorality and yet the reader can be confident that the right values will be victorious.
This is a perfect light read. The main characters are interesting; the portrayal both of the acting life and time on board a holiday liner are enlightening. The incidental characters may be over simplified stereotypes, but the plot is pleasingly constructed. Those of us who like a mystery to unravel find plenty to keep the pages turning.
Definitely not a ‘great’ novel, but a very humorous and enjoyable sail through a world that was new to me.
Sorry, Celia, please stick to acting.