At his mother’s funeral, Henry Pulling meets his eccentric Aunt Augusta, a woman whom he has never met before. She instantly becomes a source of curiosity for Henry with her unusual humour and wild stories of figures from the past and unusual holiday destinations. I was expecting a book about travel, but this novel is part farce, part insight into the unusual workings of families and the complexities hidden from view.
Henry wants to get to know Aunt Augusta to feel closer to his father who died when he was young, he is also recently retired, unmarried and bored with gardening and his lack of social life now he is no longer the local bank manager. Aunt Augusta offers Henry a whole new world of possibilities, their first trip is to Brighton and while there Henry is given an insight into the highly unusual life that his Aunt lives. From there he is drawn into her strange, sometimes criminal, goings on. Then she invites him to Istanbul and Henry becomes a fixed part of his Aunt’s life, developing an affectionate yet often bizarre relationship with her.
I really enjoyed this book. It is very much of its time (first published in 1969) and so at times language used would not be acceptable today. However, Aunt Augusta is a charming, hilarious and often despicable character. I really enjoyed the description of the various locations and the characters Henry met, or heard about, along the way. The pace of the book is really good, I read this book fairly quickly as with each new location I wanted to know more.
Also, I found the ending to be thoroughly unique and very enjoyable. I think most readers will guess the final twist, but this isn’t a downside, in this case it just feels as though you have been in on the joke for most of the second half of the book.
I really enjoyed the characters, comedy, settings and plot of this book. It is something very different from most commercial fiction being published today and so if you are looking for something different to read at the moment, I highly recommend Travels With My Aunt.