Marcus Berkmann - A Shed of One’s Own (3 stars)

Marcus Berkmann - A Shed of One’s Own

Occasionally hilarious, occasionally turgid treatise on middle-age

(Little, Brown)

What is middle-age? Is it a fixed number or a fluid miasma of values, outlooks and opinions? Marcus Berkmann, probably correctly, believes it could strike at any time (you could even get a middle-aged teenager) but is perhaps more prevalent now given that everywhere you look, the fountain of youthfulness is celebrated.

But by the time he gets to his ‘Culture’ section, Berkmann is simply sounding like a grumpy middle-aged man. You could just about write this compartmentalised chapter yourself: music, films, TV and, oh, everything just isn’t as good as it used to be.

And Marcus, not all parents go to kids films kicking, screaming and longing to be somewhere else.

Although A Shed of One’s Own is not as wildly funny as it promises to be, Berkmann is occasionally in possession of an exquisite turn-of-phrase: ‘becoming middle-aged hardens your attitudes, as well as your toenails’ being one such beauty.

And he does rescue it at the end with an excellent chapter on the Grim Reaper and our complex attitudes to the death of people both older and younger than ourselves.

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