Tears and joy from classic comedy genius


This is a lovely, funny, touching novel by the comic genius that brought us Reggie Perrin – David Nobbs. It’s the story of Sally Mottram, an ordinary resident of Potherthwaite, a small fictional Pennine town. A town, like so many now, in a dreadful rut of abandoned buildings and closing businesses. Sally feels strongly that something has to be done to turn around the town’s fortunes but what? and by whom?

A shocking tragedy breaks up this nice little tale of a one-woman crusade quite early on. Something happens that is so devastating that it threatens to shatter Sally’s whole existence. But indeed it is this incident that sparks her into action as she embarks on a mission to bring Potherthwaite back to life, rallying the whole community to save itself.

At times the plot appears to be straying into ITV Monday night drama territory but Nobbs didn’t get where he is today by succumbing to neat, twee, happy endings. Instead, we find amongst the tea rooms and allotments tales of suicide, obesity, guilt and jealousy all smothered in a heavy dollop of ‘keeping up appearances’ small town paranoia.

The story is optimistic and uplifting but as ever with David Nobbs’ work it is his writing that is the true joy of it all. For instance we know all we need to about Sally’s husband Barry when he is described as being “a stickler for his tea.” And the dialogue is as hilarious and absurd as always; “You see the man on my left? I’ve given him two endoscopies, a colonoscopy and a sigmoidoscopy. I know his intestines better than I know the Pennines,” said a resident to her partner at one of Sally’s community rallies.

And I loved this resident making assumptions about his new neighbours to his wife;

– “I don’t like the look of their standard lamps”

– “What’s wrong with them?”

– “Ostentatious. They’re going to be materialistic people. I know the type.”

Whilst reading this book, I tweeted at one point that by page 86 I’d been in both flood of tears with laughter and with sadness. A sign of clever writing and great characters. The Second Life of Sally Mottram is nostalgic stuff and very English yet it has a modern tone about it and a welcome twist of darkness. Recommended.


Notes on the author – David Nobbs

  • Nobbs has written for many of Britain’s comedy performers over the years, including Kenneth Williams, Frankie Howerd, Les Dawson and The Two Ronnies
  • He is also the creator of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin
  • Nobbs has written many novels and his autobiography “I Didn’t Get Where I am Today” (2001), which is a brilliant and funny account of the great comedy writer’s life

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