Writer Hilary Boyd probably can’t quite believe it. A month ago, her first novel had sold just 3,000 copies – a respectable number, but nothing to write home about.
Four weeks later, it’s a different story. Largely through word of mouth, Thursdays in the Park has turned into a smash hit.
The book’s fortunes changed when Amazon discounted the ebook version to 20p. I spotted the novel a couple of weeks ago and was so entranced by the title and the cover – and yes, the price – that I downloaded it straight away. I was clearly one of many because the book has now sold more than 100,000 copies. Apparently Charles Dance is interested in starring in the movie and and the foreign rights have been snapped up in France, Sweden, Finland and Germany too. Not only that, Hilary Boyd has been interviewed by scores of newspapers and even popped up on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.
But after all the excitement, is the book any good? Well yes, actually, it is. I read it earlier this week and tore through it in one go. Well-written, heart-warming and sweet, it’s the story of Jeanie, a 60-year-old woman trapped in a safe but sexless marriage. The light of her life is her little granddaughter Ellie, whom she looks after on Thursday afternoons. The pair always go to the park, and it’s there that she meets Ray and his small grandson Dylan. Ray is kind, funny and easy to talk to – everything that Jeanie’s husband isn’t, in fact – and much to the horror of Jeanie’s family the pair find themselves falling in love.
Thursdays in the Park has been dubbed “gran-lit,” but readers of all ages will enjoy it. Boyd, who’s 62, says she wanted to write about romance and love at “a certain age” and show that these days becoming a grandmother doesn’t mean “polyester slacks and a blue rinse.” Not in Jeanie’s case it doesn’t, anyway.
Boyd’s book is far from being a great literary work, but it’s an insightful and compelling tale. There are a couple of sex scenes, but they’re tastefully done. Thursdays in the Park may be the talk of publishing circles right now but it’s nothing like Fifty Shades of Grey, I promise…
Thursdays in the Park by Hilary Boyd (Quercus, £7.99). The ebook is currently available for 20p on Amazon.