The Carer review: dull siblings difficult to care for

Carer Mandy should be the star but Deborah Moggach sticks with the old man’s children

 Deborah Moggach Photograph:   Gareth Cattermole/Getty

Deborah Moggach Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/Getty

If contemporary literature often seems populated exclusively by abusive fathers and vengeful mothers, perhaps that’s because the importance of being a good parent has become central to our understanding of what it means to lead a decent life.

We read less, however, about how vital it is to be a good child. Deborah Moggach, who is probably best known for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, another study of the changes forced upon those written off by society for having the impudence to reach a pensionable age, considers this theme in her new novel, an occasionally amusing, but ultimately unsatisfying study of a pair of siblings, Phoebe and Robert, coming to terms with the gradual diminishment of their father’s health and the unravelling of secrets that have been kept from them throughout their lives.

The siblings, terribly middle-class and proper, are accustomed to a certain amount of deference

Early sections of The Carer shift back and forth between the siblings, who are both well into middle-age and feeling dissatisfied with their respective lots. Phoebe is having disappointing sex with a tramp-like fellow in a hut in the middle of a forest, while Robert’s greatest intimacy with his wife comes from watching her read the news every morning on breakfast television.

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