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Phyllida Shrimpton on why she chose to write about a granddaughter and grandfather’s relationship

Phyllida Shrimpton on why she chose to write about a granddaughter and grandfather’s relationship

“Love is sometimes easier when it skips a generation.” – Every Shade of Happy by Phyllida Shrimpton

I believe that when intergenerational relationships work they can be one of the most rewarding relationships to be had.

Unfortunately, both age groups are often seen through stereotypical lenses – the old fossil or the silly young thing and, because of that, these groups can be isolated from each other in society in general. The truth, though, is that both groups have so much to offer each other because, basically, they want the same thing – to be listened to and acknowledged.

In my novel, Algernon, a grandfather in his late 90’s and Anna, his fifteen year old granddaughter, meet for the first time since Anna was born. They have no previous history together and, as a result, view each other with suspicion. As a father, Algernon, coming from a strict and religious upbringing, struggled with the pressures of parenting and this caused a rift between himself and Helene, his daughter. When he meets Anna for the first time, he initially finds it even more difficult to understand her than he did his own daughter. Anna lives in a modern world he doesn’t understand, glued to her mobile phone and with a quirky fashion sense that is a conundrum to him. She, in turn, is unable to identify with her grandfather – seeing him as just an old man who at first doesn’t understand her and who seems to gain little pleasure from interaction with his family.

My own father, on whom Algernon is loosely based, had ideals which were positively Victorian and he found parenting a tricky thing. However, by the time his grandchildren came along I saw that the younger generation were bringing out a gentler kind of love from him. I know he was not alone in either his experience of parenting or of grand parenting. Although my father could never be described as being the most hilarious member of the family, as a grandparent he found he could interact with the children without fear of judgement, or the responsibility and resulting fallout he’d experienced when trying to enforce parental boundaries on his own children. He became a man who could find the patience to show his grandchildren how to do carpentry and other skills. A man who could make his grandchildren laugh by putting socks on his hands to make puppets. He became a man who could occasionally offer a rare and fascinating anecdote from his past to reveal that, like them, he once had a spirit and an energy for life.

It can be the young, with their vibrant energy, who provide the key to unlocking the fun side of older people, reminding them of who they really were and still can be. The old, in turn, can keep history and knowledge alive through sharing their memories with the young.

Young and old have the power to enrich each other’s lives and this is why I enjoyed bringing the two generations together in Every Shade of Happy.

Every Shade of Happy by Phyllida Shrimpton is published by Aria on 18 August 2022 in hardback for £20

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