Date:12th April 2016
Format: Paperback ARC
Source: Hachette NZ
Newly retired Philip returns home to Cologne and is thrown into emotional turmoil upon bumping into his long-lost sweetheart. In the midst of a domestic crisis, Ricarda confides in Philip that she is looking for somewhere to live. And there and then, Philip suggests that she move in with him - he is setting up a flat share. Will she join him with his mischievous dachshund named Ralf?
To his surprise, Ricarda agrees, leaving Philip to scramble together a crew of retires in time for spring, for the most unlikely of social experiments. There's grumpy cigarette-smoking grandfather Harry; quiet and discreet Eckart, curiously carting around his late wife's headstone; Uschi, brimming with life, harbouring a passion for leotards and aerobics, along with sausages and outrageous knitting patterns; and then, ever-practical and warm-hearted Ricarda, towards whom Phillip is developing real feelings.
Despite their differences, the flatmates thrive and embark on a series of new adventures. But when Uschi falls unwell, familiar cracks begin to show and this uniquely spirited club of friends must work together in order to survive - and truly blossom.
The Vintage Springtime Club is written by German author Beatrice Meier. It is set in Cologne, Germany and tracks the lives of five older people as they embark on a flat share. They are a mottley bunch all different, yet as the weeks go by something rather amazing begins to build.
Ricarda, Philip and Harry have all known each other since student days. Harry is a bit of a character and can be relied on to wind up Ricarda in various ways. Philip and Ricarda have a bit of a thing for each other, but Ricarda has been sort of ignoring it. She is a psychotherapist, however she is surprisingly out of touch with herself over a number of issues. One being her daughter Stella, who is trying to get her attention to no avail.
Eckart has said good-bye to his son, who has left to grow kiwi in New Zealand. His wife has been dead for twenty years, and he carts around with him a rather heavy tombstone in remembrance of her. Uschi - not long after arriving at the flat has a health issue that sends the whole flat in a spin. They band together in an extraordinary way to help her. However it causes quite a bit of stress as well, and soon it looks like this flat sharing might not last.
There is one more member of the flat - the old dog Ralf, who belonged to Philip's mother before she died. We even get a little from his point of view which is fun.
How these people interact with each other, how they build real relationships that in a sense becomes very much family like, is rather moving and heart warming. I enjoyed the book and really liked the underlying values and hope that it portrayed. I can see why this book was the basis for a TV series in Germany.
About the author:
Beatrice Meier was born in Germany and studied literary translation at Dusseldorf University. She then went on to complete a scriptwriting programme in Munich Film School in 2002-3 and attended the Cologne International Film school in 2006. She won the Best Screenplay Award at the German Film Festival in 2013 for the feature film Offside Trap, which was screened at festivals. She lives and works in Strasbourg.