Book Review On Mike Gayle's All The Lonely People


Mike Gayle’s All the Lonely People immerses us in a narrative that effectively balances the simplicity of its storytelling with the profound themes of loneliness, family bonds, and the power of human connections. Hubert Bird, an 84-year-old widower, personifies the quiet isolation many elderly people face. The reader witnesses how he cleverly masks his solitude with fabricated stories of a vibrant social life for his distant daughter and shares his angst that she will see his lies for what they are when she announces her plans to visit in the summer. However, without spoiling the story, things are not quite what they appear.

The arrival of Ashleigh and her daughter next door leads to the reluctant Hubert being reintegrated into the outside world. And with the promise of new beginnings and friendships, challenging the constraints of age and solitude, things, for a while at least, look hopeful for Hubert. He and Ashleigh embark upon a campaign to eradicate loneliness in his local community—a tall order and perhaps a far-fetched aspect of the story.

Gayle’s All the Lonely People spans from Hubert’s hopeful migration from Jamaica in the late 1950s to prejudiced London, capturing the struggles of the Windrush generation with both honesty and sensitivity. This juxtaposition of Hubert’s youthful optimism against his later years of resignation, having cared for his wife with dementia, makes the reader reflect on both the personal aspects of the human condition and the societal shifts over decades.

The novel’s warmth, underscored by community bonds and the serendipity of finding joy in the most unexpected places, contrasts with its straightforward narrative approach, which some, including my own family, critique as overly direct or ‘basic’. I would probably argue that the weakest aspect of the novel is that it perhaps fails to adequately explore the complex issue of his son, David’s, battle with addiction. However, despite this, All the Lonely People has a message of hope and resilience that is impossible to not be drawn to. This aspect, perhaps unusually, is reminiscent of the nuanced portrayals of characters in works by female authors such as Elizabeth Strout and Gail Honeyman.

The surprising ending to All the Lonely People adds a layer of hopeful, albeit somewhat unrealistic, optimism to the narrative, inviting readers to reflect on human connection. It’s a narrative that, perhaps, particularly resonates because of the challenging times we find ourselves in. This is a great read for those yearning for stories of resilience and the transformative power of love and friendship. For me, this is sufficient reason alone for the book to be considered if not a literary triumph, then a triumphant representation of the ability of goodness to prevail.

Book Club Discussion Questions on Mike Gayle's All The Lonely People

  1. What do you perceive as the most poignant aspect of All the Lonely People? Discuss.
  2. The review implies that David’s struggle with drug dependency could have been explored more deeply. Do you concur with this assessment?
  3. Were you able to discern the hidden twist in the narrative concerning Hubert’s daughter? Share your thoughts.
  4. In the scene where Hubert is on the brink of confessing an almost affair to his wife Joyce, her response suggests she knows something. Were you surprised by her reaction given what we know about her character?
  5. Both Gus and Hubert find themselves as isolated elderly men, albeit for different reasons. To what degree did you empathise with one character over the other?
  6. When Joyce married Hubert, her entire family disowned her. Did you feel any sympathy for the mistreatment she endured from those who were supposed to care for her?
  7. What part of the story struck you as the most shocking, and what significance did it hold for you?
  8. What did you find to be the most hopeful element of the narrative, and how did it resonate with you?
  9. How convincing did you find Layla’s storyline in All the Lonely People? Discuss.

Book Club Discussion Questions on Mike Gayle's All The Lonely People (for if you haven't read the book)

  1. What did you know about the Windrush generation, and what did you learn from All the Lonely People
  2. All the Lonely People emphasizes the importance of male friendship. To what extent do you believe men and women treat friendship differently?
  3. The book delves into Hubert’s caregiving role toward his wife during her battle with dementia. Would anyone like to share personal experiences or stories related to dementia?
  4. Despite addressing heavy themes such as dementia, drug dependency, isolation, and loneliness, the writing style of All the Lonely People is often described as light. What do you make of this observation in terms of distinguishing between literature and popular fiction?
  5. Do you believe loneliness is a significant issue in today’s society? If so, what measures do you think could be taken to combat this problem?
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