The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

Thanks to Transworld Publishers and Alison Barrow for the advance copy.

Dustjacket synopsis

Life is short. No one knows that better than Lenni, seventeen years old and living on the terminal ward.  But as she’s about to find out, it’s not what you do with your life that counts, but who you share it with.

Seeking adventure, Lenni joins Art class, where she bumps into Margot. A rebel-hearted eighty-three-year-old from the next ward. Their bond is instant, and soon they realize that together they have lived an astonishing one hundred years.

To celebrate their shared century, they begin to paint their stories – of growing old and staying young, of giving joy and receiving kindness, of losing and finding the person who is everything.

As this extraordinary friendship deepens, one thing becomes vividly clear: life is not done with Lenni or Margot just yet.

Fiercely alive, disarmingly funny, and brimming with tenderness, The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot unwraps the extraordinary gift of life, and revels in our infinite capacity for friendship and love when we need them most.

My review

I loved reading Lenni and Margot. It was the novel that I needed to read a couple of weeks ago when I was feeling overwhelmed by all the sadness and uncertainty in the world. I wanted something that would be easy to read, yet would have strong, emotive and thoughtful themes as well as the most wonderful main protagonists. I was not disappointed. I knew that the two friends would live on as friends of mine in my imagination almost as soon as I began to read.

There is so much to enjoy in this novel. I can’t actually believe that it’s author Marianne Cronin’s first novel. The writing is so sure and mature. The main characters, Lenni and Margot are drawn so beautifully and with such depth and warmth. They both show so much kindness in their present life in the hospital and have faced challenges in their past.

We learn about the short, yet well lived life of Lenni and the much longer but equally event packed life of Margot through their paintings in the hospital Art Therapy class where the two meet. One hundred paintings for their joint one hundred years of life. I love this way of telling their life stories.

The supporting cast of characters are also fantastic. I recognise many of the hospital staff from my recent times as an inpatient. Paul the porter, always cheerful and helpful – I’ve met him on every trip down to theatre over the last few years. The kind nurse who can never do enough to help Lenni and who becomes her friend and confidante. The ward sister whose main purpose seems to be the gatekeeper and meticulous rule enforcer. I’ve known them all and they are exquisitely written by Marianne.  

I love the interplay between Lennie and Father Arthur. In parts comical and truly emotional, their relationship leads the reader through an exploration of religion and what it means to have belief.

The novel is all about life, friendship, kindness, joy and love. We don’t find out about the illnesses that bring Lenni and Margot to the hospital. I laughed and cried, but mostly I found myself enthralled by the stories that the two friends shared with each other. Books at their best transport the reader away from the everyday mundanities and anxieties. The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot certainly did this for me and I loved it for that.

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is published on 18th February 20121 and is available of preorder on Amazon or from Penguin