Longevity Book Review: Yes, Really! By Kate Turkington

This is one grandmother I would love to meet. Not only is she still alive and kicking in her ninth decade, but her sense of humour, spirit of adventure and endearing honesty have me wishing I could enjoy a drink with her. Yes, Really! tells the life story of a woman who has truly lived – without any preamble or hesitation. Kate Turkington is better travelled than most diplomats, and, as a travel writer, she reveals an important truth to those who wish to follow in her footsteps: “[In this job], you won’t make any money, but you’ll travel the world at someone else’s expense.”

What makes Yes, Really! a good read?

Turkington indulgently reads you old and yellowed love letters and beautifully written sonnets – some over 60 years old – sent by heartbroken soldiers, fellow writers, professors, travellers and lovers. It is clear that these different men have all fallen desperately in love with some intangible element of this woman. Be it her joie de vivre, reckless charm or unrepentant flirting with life, it is carried over into her writing and makes the reading all the more fin. In a letter to her second husband, she writes: “And it sounds like a fairytale romance, two men in love with one girl. And she loves one foolishly, irresponsibly and selfishly, and loves the other from loyalty, habit and gratitude.”

She draws a very real picture of growing up in World War II, in the East End of London, and depicts a remarkably different youth from the one she describes her grandchildren now have. The reader constantly finds him- or herself in new places – probably because Turkington is never in one place for long. It seems as though life has thrown her from one happy accident to the next, and she simply said “yes” to it all. When her first husband is stationed in Nigeria, she tells: “I had no idea where I was going, knoew absolutely nothing about Africa, let alone Nigeria, and wept bitterly because I couldn’t tale Pépé, my miniature black poodle, with me.”

She is naughty, brave, funny and very real

The jolly tales she tells are of love and betrayal (along with many, many affairs) adventure and mystery, war and conflict, and how to have peace in the midst of difficulty. Most of all, it’s about trusting that things will eventually turn out for the best, and that you can get far in life with a positive attitude.

In addition to being a lecturer in English Literature, Kate has worked as a barmaid, a radio and TV show host and a score of other occupations, the stories of which all make the book.

Yes, Really! is wild, honest, funny – sometimes shocking – and more than a bit inspiring. It’s a good read if you’re in the mood for light and entertaining material – perfect for the coming holidays. Click here to find out how reading can add years to your life – as explained by Harvard Medical School.

Want to know more?

Click on the link to find out why travelling is so good for your mental health.