This is the story of life. It’s the story of love and ambition; of family and friendship; of sorrow, and ultimately, of loneliness.
Hubert and his friend, Gus, are enjoying a glass of rum in a ramshackle shebeen, which is the closest thing their village in Jamaica has to a pub, when Gus breaks the news that he has bought a ticket for England. It doesn’t take long for Hubert to follow his friend and so on a cold wet January morning in 1958 the reader finds the protagonist queueing at the Labour Exchange in Brixton in search of employment in a country which treats him as an alien.
All The Lonely People is Hubert’s story and invites the reader to consider the question – are we watching life, or taking part in it?
The book flits back and fore from the early years of finding love and raising a family to the present day where Hubert has created a fantasy world for himself until one day there is a knock at his door from a young, Welsh girl – Ashleigh – introducing herself as new to the area and in need of friendship. Ashleigh changes his life. Her arrival heralds a new start for Hubert who reluctantly helps out with babysitting her daughter and comes to realise he is not the only lonely person in the area. Together they decide to do something about it.
Mike Gayle’s latest novel is ultimately the story of everyone; of children growing up and leaving home; of hopes and dreams for them and the sorrow when it doesn’t turn out how we had hoped. It is beautifully written but tear-jerking. There is a character everyone can identify with and Gayle underlines that people matter, all people, even the ones we don’t find particularly likeable. There is loneliness everywhere, in all walks of life, no matter where you live and what ethnic group you identify with.
The novel seems particularly apt in light of recent events and although much has changed since the 1950s it is worth noting that we still have a lot to do. However, All The Lonely People brings joy and hope to a troubled world.