‘The Communists’ is a contemporary novel set in a commune of over sixties who have all met through internet dating. It is Dorset’s take on ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but with more sex. They each have loneliness in common and come to live together at Combe House, a nine-bedroom, Victorian rectory in the small village of Steeplecombe.
The book explores the shifting relationships between current and ex-lovers. Theirs is the world of online dating, late night texts and saucy emails.
Central to the foundation and survival of the commune are ‘friends with benefits’, Muriel, a retired university lecturer and Jack, an enigmatic and highly promiscuous retired civil servant and would-be blues singer. He lights on the idea of a commune set-up and persuades Muriel to join in this new venture. She readily agrees as this is a step on the road to achieving her goal of being in a monogamous relationship with him.
They are soon joined by Jessica, a friend and ex-lover of Jack’s; Ken ex-army, borderline alcoholic and borderline bigot and by Richard, a highly amenable and multi-skilled photographer. Both men are long term friends and one time lovers of Muriel.
The gang of five happily settle into their various roles but to make their community viable they need to attract more likeminded people. Hence the arrival of Petra, a serious academic and plain-speaking friend of Muriel’s, who terrifies most of the men. Friction arises between her and Ken which upsets the status quo. Then the arrival of the flighty and exotic Susie, proves pivotal to Muriel’s relationship with Jack. As his harem increases, so does her smouldering jealousy.
As new housemates join, relationships are enhanced or frustrated by the group dynamic amongst an array of personalities. With the arrival of Alice, another of Jack’s exes, Muriel, who can be intolerant of others’ shortcomings, finds herself increasingly irritated by Alice’s simpering dependency on the men. The final communist recruit is Terry, a high flier who is dogmatic and can be overbearing causing tension between the other men of the group.
Conflicting attitudes towards promiscuity and drugs flare up when Jack embarks on an affair with a married woman from the village and Richard openly smokes cannabis. Fortunately, all the housemates relish the opportunity to explore their personal change in a safe environment and form enduring friendships which counteract any differences between them.ence the arrival of PeytraH
Fuelled by the notion of growing old disgracefully, a shared quirkiness enhances their collective identity. They thrive on the companionship, secret sex sessions and sheer fun they have together as they explore the surrounding countryside and get to know their neighbours in the village. Tasked with running the tiny village hall in the grounds of Combe House, they organise quizzes and music nights and the like, which necessitates them all working together as a team. They invent their own entertainment with ‘Would I lie to you’ type evenings, cocktail competitions and enjoy celebrating birthdays and Christmases together.
Friendships, sexual liaisons and tensions are all inevitable, but the arrangement proves a lifeline for both Muriel and Jack. But as circumstances change, the communists dwindle, leaving just Jack and two of his harem, Muriel and Alice. Each must face difficult decisions which will have long reaching consequences for them all. Eventually, the delights of their shared entwining and promise to be friends forever wins the day for Muriel and Jack, enabling them to leave an uncertain future behind.