The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village

The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village
Joanna Nell

The main characters of this romantic comedy set in a retirement village are 79-year-old widow Peggy Smart and her love interest the debonair Brian. Their quiet lives will be changed dramatically when Peggy’s old school friend, Angie, turns up.
The author, a Sydney GP, extracts genuine humour from everyday health issues: “Naturally, a professional man like Brian had had both his knees replaced in a private hospital under a double-barrelled surgeon. On the other hand, Peggy had gone public for hers. Her specialist had had only one surname, and she’d shared a bay with another lady who screamed all night.”  

This insight into the concerns of older people form the basis of Dr Nell’s debut novel, penned on her days off, along with juggling teenage children. She has since taken a sabbatical year to fit in editing, book promotion and more writing to fulfil a two-book contract.
While you might expect her patients to be her inspiration, Nell says she was inspired to write the novel by a sculpture of an older woman in a bathing suit, wrinkles and all.
“It was only once I started looking at the world through the eyes of an 80-year-old character (an entire first draft into the manuscript) that I realised this was a book about ageing and a unique opportunity to challenge the many myths and stereotypes about old age. In particular, I wanted to highlight the often patronising and paternalistic way in which older people are treated by society.
“I knew it would be a story about friendship and was fascinated by the idea of childhood friends meeting again in later life, having lived very different lives. I was also keen to explore the complex intergenerational struggles between adult children and ageing parents.
“At the same time, I didn’t want to sugar coat ageing nor shy away from the physical challenges of an ageing body. I wanted Peggy Smart to be a realistic and relatable character that readers could identify with, and shine a light on the invisibility that older women can feel.”
Dr Nell has found her patients’ reception of the book to be mixed: “Some of them love it, but most just want to know when I’ll be back practising.”
One reader wrote that after reading the book she and her friend, both aged 80, were going swimsuit shopping. So what are you waiting for? Splurge on a new cossie, even if it’s only to lounge around in while you read The Single Ladies on the beach…
Prescribed for:
People in the prime of their life, aged 70+
Women with bladder instability
Anyone who needs a laugh and an engrossing read

Dr Zewlan Moor is a GP and Founder of Byron Bibliotherapy, a private practice that helps people find the right book at the right time.