Book review: An extra pair of hands by Kate Mosse

Kate Mosse is an internationally bestselling novelist, playwright and non-fiction author with sales of more than eight million copies in 38 languages. She is renowned for bringing unheard and under-heard histories to life; she is a champion of women’s creativity. So I was intrigued to read this book which is in some ways an autobiography of a certain period of the author’s life and is also a self-help book. It was a poignant read and I was thrilled to have been asked to write a book review.

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In An Extra Pair of Hands, Kate Mosse has turned her pen to a story of caring, ageing and everyday acts of love. She tells her own personal story of finding herself a carer in middle age: first, helping her heroic mother care for her beloved father through Parkinson’s, then supporting her mother in widowhood, and finally as ‘an extra pair of hands’ for her 90-yer-old mother-in-law.

This book is a story about the gentle heroism of our carers, about small everyday acts of tenderness and finding joy in times of crisis. It’s about juggling priorities, mind-numbing repetition, about guilt and powerlessness, about grief, and the solace of nature when we’re exhausted or at a loss. It is also about celebrating older people, about learning to live differently – and think differently about ageing.

But most of all, it’s a story about love.

Having been a carer myself, supporting my mother when my father was ill, then helping her embrace widowhood and finally when she was diagnosed with dementia and cancer, I found reading this book was like taking a trip down memory lane.

Getting old is not for the faint-hearted, but it can have some enjoyable moments both for the carer and the cared-for. It took away the guilt I had had with some of my feelings when I was a carer. It also reminded me of some of the joyous moments.

An Extra Pair of Hands is a profoundly personal book and celebrates three wonderful people in the author’s life. Kate Mosse writes that there were days of anxiety and rage, impatience and guilt at being impatient. But at the end of the day, we are who we are because of those we love and those we allow to love us.

Honest, moving … this book will be a huge help to both carers and the cared-for

DEBORAH MOGGACH

Published by PROFILE BOOKS.