Your Preview Verdict: The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Nell

Your Preview Verdict: The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Nell

The joyous, charming and utterly irresistible new novel from the author of mega-bestseller The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village

At nearly ninety, retired nature writer Hattie Bloom prefers the company of birds to people, but when a fall lands her in a nursing home she struggles to cope with the loss of independence and privacy. From the confines of her ‘room with a view’ of the carpark, she dreams of escape.

Fellow ‘inmate’, the gregarious, would-be comedian Walter Clements also plans on returning home as soon as he is fit and able to take charge of his mobility scooter.

When Hattie and Walter officially meet at The Night Owls, a clandestine club run by Sister Bronwyn and her dog, Queenie, they seem at odds. But when Sister Bronwyn is dismissed over her unconventional approach to aged care, they must join forces – and very slowly an unlikely, unexpected friendship begins to grow.

Full of wisdom and warmth, The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home is a gorgeously poignant, hilarious story showing that it is never too late to laugh – or to love.

Read some 5 Star reviews from our Preview readers here:

A truly heartwarming read that was funny, endearing and moving. Characters were real and gave a great insight into the mind & spirits of the aging population – Kim, NSW, 5 Stars

What a brilliant read. I didn’t know what to expect with this book but was pleasantly surprised. I love that Walter and Hattie meet and strike up a friendship to combat an issue. An easy page-turner that plants you into the nursing home and everyday issues faced in a comical way. A great read, recommended for all ages. – Claire, VIC, 5 Stars

The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home is a joy to read. Nell weaves complex characters who inevitably steal the reader’s heart (and make us laugh and cry in equal measure). She also delivers a sharply insightful look at modern aging and aged care – a complex topic that affects many of our families today. But mostly this book is a testament to connection and those rich and precious relationships that ensure the notion of ‘home’ is not so much a place, but rather the people we share it with – whether they be family by blood, or by heart. – Lisa, SA, 5 Stars

This easy to read novel was both very funny and thought-provoking. The antics that the residents especially Hattie and Walter got up to had me chuckling, and their great desire to be in their own homes pulled the heartstrings. Along with humour though was the lesson for all those who have an aging parent, as well as nursing home staff, to listen carefully to their desires and try to accommodate them if at all possible. A great read. – Sue, WA, 5 Stars

Thankyou Better Reading for my free copy. I loved Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home it’s full of charm, laughs and heart. Written from Hattie and Walters points of view who are both reluctant residents of Woodlands. The story just rolls along and shows growing old doesn’t mean you stop living plus where there’s a will there’s a way. Beautifully written with fantastic characters that pull you into the story, have you cheering them on and sharing their heartbreaks. Highly recommend reading Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home as its got all the feels. – Simone, WA, 5 Stars

Subversion, rebellion and intrigue in a nursing home is the humorous basis for Joanna Nell’s wonderful novel – “The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home”. The book is sensitive and intelligent with delightful and appealing characters, particularly Hattie, Murray and Sister Bronwyn. I enjoyed immersing myself in the backstories and present-day dilemmas of the residents and staff at the Woodlands Nursing Home. I loved descriptive phrases like “flannelette and velour revolution” and the plan developed to return Sister Bronwyn to her rightful place. The plan entailed some of the residents pretending (or otherwise) to be scatty, confused and ‘invisible’ to ‘fly under the radar’. What a great read – highly recommended. – Sandra, ACT, 5 Stars

As usual, it was a pleasure to read Joanna Nell’s latest book. She has a knack for creating relatable, real characters, and turning everyday settings into something more. For this adventure, we get to know two very different individuals, Hattie and Walter, both of whom have ended up at the Woodlands Nursing Home, and both of whom want to escape. An unlikely friendship ensues, plans are hatched, a mini-bus is taken for a spin, and final wishes and changes of the heart come together for a book that will leave you with a smile on your face. There’s antics, laughter, and tears, but also a good read to be had. Highly recommended. – Kate, VIC, 5 Stars

Having thoroughly enjoyed Joanna Nell’s previous books I was so looking forward to reading this latest book and Joanna has done it again with the greatest skill bringing characters to life. 89-year-old Miss Hattie Bloom has lived all her life in the home her father built. Living alone she is very content with her life and has a modest income from her published articles on nature. Due to a fall while tending her beloved owls, she has arrived at Woodland Nursing Home to recuperate. Her first escape by taxi to get back home failed so she tries to resign to the fact she will need to stay a little longer. “Her mind might be a prisoner, but her mind and her spirit would remain free as long as she let them”. Walter aged 90, a former driving instructor for 40 years, is in Woodlands with failing health since his wife died. He has failed his assessment to drive his new scooter after a couple of casualties in the corridor. He only wanted to be able to drive the scooter to the bottle shop for his supplies. With so many of the residents unable to sleep at night, Sister Bronwyn has set up the “Night Owls” Group in the Day Room. Murray is terminally ill however Walter, always the joker tries hard to make him happy and divides his time with him at night and at the “Night Owls” gathering. After an incident at “Night Owls”, Sister Browyn is replaced by an agency nurse leaving many residents upset. This leads Hattie, Walter and Murray working together to have her re-instated. This book was a joy to read. Beautifully written a 5-star rating from me and I look forward to more from Joanna Nell in the future. – Margaret, VIC, 5 Stars

One of the funniest books I have read in a long time. So funny, I even read large passages of it aloud to my family. I don’t remember seeing Joanna Nell at my recent visit to a Nursing Home – but she must have been there, so accurate are her observations. I hope she never loses her pen licence! I’ve added this to my Christmas list. – Kirralee, SA, 5 Stars

Drawn together by fate, the two protagonists of Joanna Nell’s latest novel, The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home are world’s apart in terms of life experiences and attitudes: Hattie Bloom, the nature-loving recluse stands in stark contrast to the extroverted, would-be comedian Walter Clements. Incarcerated in a place neither of them wants to be, they gradually find that compromise and understanding can break down even the iciest of relationships. Having a common enemy in the form of a bureaucratic, patronising regime intolerant of staff treating patients with humanity helps strengthen the relationship even more. All hail the grey revolution! Joanna Nell’s witty and insightful style makes for pleasurable reading and serves as a reminder that reduced physical mobility as we age is not necessarily accompanied by diminished mental capacity. Our senior citizens have a lot to teach us. Just ask Hattie Bloom. But don’t play her for the fool or mistake her quietness for weakness. You may find yourself on the receiving end of a nice dose of sarcasm. The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home is an entertaining read and a timely reminder that one day, sooner than we care, we may find ourselves in a similar plight. – Keith, VIC, 5 Stars

In The Great Escape from Woodland Nursing Home, Joanna Nell has created a great cast of characters. Hattie has always lived alone and prefers birds to people. Seeking to protect an owl’s nest, she injures herself and is put in a nursing home against her wishes. Here she meets an unlikely band of characters who will become her friends. At first, preoccupied with her own predicament, she begins to learn empathy for her fellow residents as well as her feathered friends. It’s a great story told with humour and genuine insights into the realities of life in a nursing home. There is a real understanding of the inherent tension between ensuring the smooth running of an institution and the needs of a diverse group of adults who have lived full lives and find themselves thrown together in such close proximity. I would love to know more of the backstory of Hattie, Murray or the enigmatic Fanny. A great read with some laugh-out-loud moments. – Terese, TAS, 4 Stars

Welcome to Woodlands, a place where you will learn about your true self, and experience the true joy and sorrow of friendship. The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Nell is a true delight to read and takes you on a hilarious journey into the true shenanigans of a retirement home. 90-year-old Walter Clements has become an inmate at the Woodlands Nursing Home and is waiting for the all-clear to drive the ‘Tesla’ which will bring him one step closer to his escape. A self-confessed ladies man, with his assumed funny jokes, he is constantly causing chaos where he goes. Hattie Bloom, an 89-year-old ornithological expert, temporarily moves into the room next to Walter when she has a fall and breaks her hip. Hattie prefers birds over people and is feisty and extremely independent. The amazingly kind and understanding night nurse Sister Bronwyn along with her pal Queenie introduces Hattie to the ‘Night Owls’, an unofficial club that allows residents to feel alive again with poker, exotic dancing, cocktails and more. The two along with their lovely friend Murray and an unlikely ally work together to bring back Sister Bronwyn, who was unfairly dismissed from Woodlands when Queenie and the Night Owls was exposed. This is a delightful, funny, witty, clever and emotional read, that takes you on a journey through the joys and sorrows of friendship. It is a true reminder that age doesn’t define you and with every faded or forgotten memory, there is an amazing story of a life and career that was once glorious. Very well written it draws you in and allows you to immerse yourself in the story and the characters. A wonderful, heartwarming tale that made me laugh and cry, with an ending that was truly perfect. Thank you to the Better Reading Team and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy to read in return for an honest review. – Jessica, QLD, 4 Stars

A heartwarming story told from the perspective of two residents of the Woodlands nursing home, Hattie and Walter. You instantly fall in love with the characters and their perspective on life inside a nursing home. The book is fun and full of laughs but also makes you consider life from a different perspective. Highly recommend. – Meaghan, ACT, 4 Stars

An interesting book filled with humour alongside the seriousness of ageing humanity. We often overlook the feelings of the elderly when the decision to move into a care facility is not their own. The author highlights the need for the self-worth of the elderly and their need to be heard. I enjoyed the light-hearted humour alongside the seriousness of the transitional journey of life. – Theresa, VIC, 4 Stars

In 2020, The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home is just what the doctor ordered: funny, charming, and thoroughly delightful. Joanna Nell’s experience as a General Practitioner shines; she breathes life into her characters using the empathetic touch of someone who has dedicated their life to helping others. The crisp, witty prose brings voice to characters who are plucky and age-defiant. The story is told through the eyes of our two protagonists, Hattie Bloom and Walter Clements, two unlikely seniors who are, quite literally, bowled over by each other – at least one of them is… Hattie and Walter are hell-bent on finding a way back to their old lives. But first, aided by a band of quirky, mismatched fellow inmates, they must help foil internal criminals and restore The Night Owls to its former midnight glory. The pages in this fast-paced novel fly by quicker than Walter’s trigger-happy finger on his beloved mobility scooter, The Tesla. I laughed, championed their hilariously absurd ideas for escape, and felt overwhelming empathy for their guilt-ridden families – I even shed a tear along the way. I found myself sympathising with their plights, while simultaneously chuckling at their mischievous antics. – Linda, QLD, 4 Stars

I found The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Neil an easy, enjoyable read. The main characters in their late 80s and early 90s prove that age is just a number. They are loveable, delightful, cheeky and funny. They enjoy the company and comradery of their friends in Woodlands Nursing Home. Their age, injuries and health issues do not stop Hattie and Walter and their very ill friend Murray and other friends in the nursing home from getting up to mischief and lots of trouble. It is a wonderful story of mateship and determination and the bonds and friendships they make with the staff and residents. A retired driving school instructor, nothing could stop Walter get his ‘Telsa’ (mobility scooter) license. Even after causing accidents, injuries and a protest he was still determined to get his license which he felt would give him his freedom and escape from the nursing home. It reminded me of my grandmother who was put into a nursing home because she could no longer look after herself. She hated losing her home and independence but she made lots of friends. Every time I went to visit her, she had a group of residents congregated outside her room having a chat, and reminiscing the olds day over a cup of tea and a good laugh. – Renae, QLD, 4 Stars

Already being a fan of Joanna Nell’s books, I was looking forward to reading this book and it did not disappoint! I like the way humour is incorporated into the storyline. I recommend this book for a ‘great escape’! – Amanda, QLD, 4 Stars

What a wonderful book! Hattie and Walter have both arrived unwillingly at Woodlands Nursing Home. Hattie recovering from a broken hip, Walter struggling over his beloved Sylvia’s death. Both anxious to return to their own homes. Walter, ex driving instructor, desperately wants to be allowed to drive his new mobility scooter, but first, he has to pass a driving test. Chaos results! Sister Bronwyn knows what the residents want and need. She and her overweight Labrador Queenie provide it at the Night Owls; until an accident puts a resident in hospital and Sister Bronwyn out of a job. Meanwhile, someone has turned the aquarium water red, there are bubbles in the fountain, the residents are chanting they want pineapple with their gammon and what is the story with Derek Baker and Sister Who? Will Hattie and Walter come up with a workable plan to get Sister Bronwyn back? Can they find a way to help their dying friend Murray see his garden one more time? Will Hattie finally discover that humans, not just birds, are interesting? Answers to these and other questions can be found as you enjoy Nell’s eloquent and often humourous book about life in a nursing home. – Marcia, SA, 4 Stars

I am new to this author’s work but what a joy this book was to read. Especially now, this story is pure escapism – in more ways than the title suggests. The characters are all so gorgeous and come to life through the writing. I would love a prequel about the lives/stories of each of them. – Lisa, NSW, 4 Stars

Already being a fan of Joanna Nell’s books, I was looking forward to reading this book and it did not disappoint! I like the way humour is incorporated into the storyline. I recommend this book for a ‘great escape’! – Amanda, QLD, 4 Stars

What a wonderful book! Hattie and Walter have both arrived unwillingly at Woodlands Nursing Home. Hattie recovering from a broken hip, Walter struggling over his beloved Sylvia’s death. Both anxious to return to their own homes. Walter, ex driving instructor, desperately wants to be allowed to drive his new mobility scooter, but first, he has to pass a driving test. Chaos results! Sister Bronwyn knows what the residents want and need. She and her overweight Labrador Queenie provide it at the Night Owls; until an accident puts a resident in hospital and Sister Bronwyn out of a job. Meanwhile, someone has turned the aquarium water red, there are bubbles in the fountain, the residents are chanting they want pineapple with their gammon and what is the story with Derek Baker and Sister Who? Will Hattie and Walter come up with a workable plan to get Sister Bronwyn back? Can they find a way to help their dying friend Murray see his garden one more time? Will Hattie finally discover that humans, not just birds, are interesting? Answers to these and other questions can be found as you enjoy Nell’s eloquent and often humourous book about life in a nursing home. – Marcia, SA, 4 Stars

I am new to this author’s work but what a joy this book was to read. Especially now, this story is pure escapism – in more ways than the title suggests. The characters are all so gorgeous and come to life through the writing. I would love a prequel about the lives/stories of each of them. – Lisa, NSW, 4 Stars

This book was everything I imagined living in a retirement village, to be like. The characters were engaging and funny and I didn’t want the book to end. This book would be a great jumping-off point for a cozy mystery series and it would be one I would happily read. – Kirstie, WA, 4 Stars

I really enjoyed the author’s previous books so was looking forward to reading this new title: ‘The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home’. I was not disappointed as there is a whole new cast of characters to bond and fall in love with: Hattie, Walter, Murray, Fanny and Queenie. Getting old is no fun and as Hattie says “Her body might be a prisoner, but her mind and her spirit would remain free as long as she let them”. A truly heartwarming story about life and adventures in a nursing home. There are light-hearted moments that make you laugh but the reality of life for the elderly in a nursing home is not all bingo and afternoon tea. As the author wrote “I want to offer readers an uplifting and ultimately hopeful portrayal of life in aged care” and she does just that. – Karyn, ACT, 4 Stars

“Walter didn’t laugh. He’d wanted there to be a moral in the story, a happy ending. Perhaps that was the point. Life’s end was full of loose ends. Unlike Netflix, there wasn’t another episode waiting.” A heart-warming and cosy read. Just when some of the residents of Woodlands nursing home think they have reached the end of their journey, they discover new beginnings. The book contemplates mortality, friendship and above all the loss of dignity, independence and freedom that is often visited upon the elderly. This book provided a rare insight into what it would actually be like to be a nursing home resident. It made me think that perhaps it would be the sudden loss of the previously taken for granted daily pleasures that would be the most difficult to come to terms with. Imagine not being able to enjoy your tea served hot in case of burns! Reading this book just made me want to turn back the clock and visit my grandmother in her nursing home and be a better visitor. – Sophie, SA, 3 Stars

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                  Publisher details

                  The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home
                  Author
                  Joanna Nell
                  Publisher
                  Hachette
                  Genre
                  Fiction
                  Released
                  27 October, 2020

                  Synopsis

                  The joyous, charming and utterly irresistible new novel from the author of mega-bestseller The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement VillageAt nearly ninety, retired nature writer Hattie Bloom prefers the company of birds to people, but when a fall lands her in a nursing home she struggles to cope with the loss of independence and privacy. From the confines of her 'room with a view' of the carpark, she dreams of escape.Fellow 'inmate', the gregarious, would-be comedian Walter Clements also plans on returning home as soon as he is fit and able to take charge of his mobility scooter.When Hattie and Walter officially meet at The Night Owls, a clandestine club run by Sister Bronwyn and her dog, Queenie, they seem at odds. But when Sister Bronwyn is dismissed over her unconventional approach to aged care, they must join forces -- and very slowly an unlikely, unexpected friendship begins to grow.Full of wisdom and warmth, The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home is a gorgeously poignant, hilarious story showing that it is never too late to laugh -- or to love.
                  Joanna Nell
                  About the author

                  Joanna Nell

                  Joanna Nell was born in the UK and studied medicine at Cambridge and Oxford universities. Her short fiction has won multiple awards and has been published in various journals and literary anthologies. A former ship's doctor and now a GP with a passion for women's health and care of the elderly, Joanna is drawn to writing character-driven stories for women in their prime, creating young-at-heart characters who are not afraid to break the rules and defy society's expectations of ageing. Her first novel, THE SINGLE LADIES OF JACARANDA RETIREMENT VILLAGE, was a national bestseller. Joanna lives on Sydney's Northern Beaches with her husband and two teenage children.

                  Books by Joanna Nell

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