The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is a novel by Marianne Cronin, a writer and performer. Set to be published in twenty-five territories and adapted into a film by a major Hollywood studio, Cronin’s novel is quite the debut. The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot follows seventeen-year-old Lenni, a patient living in the terminal ward. Fed up with her peers and seeking fun, Lenni joins the octogenarian art class, where she meets eighty-three-year-old Margot. Lenni and Margot instantly become inseparable as they come to the realisation that together, they have lived for one hundred years. To commemorate their lives, they decide to paint one painting for each year that they have lived.
Cronin’s portrayal of terminal illness in The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot is admirably sensitive as she does not divulge Lenni’s nor Margot’s diagnoses. In this sense, Cronin humanises her heroines – Lenni and Margot are not defined by their illnesses but by their remarkable stories. The flashbacks which follow the paintings are particularly interesting as Lenni speaks about her fraught childhood whilst Margot speaks about growing up during the war and her troubled romantic relationships. In this respect, the novel is well-layered; it feels like a story, within a story, a blend of historical and contemporary fiction.
In addition, these beautifully written flashbacks add depth to the characters of Lenni and Margot. It is their well-developed characters, as well as the side characters, New Nurse and Father Arthur, that really make the novel shine. Lenni is witty and spunky, never shying away from asking thought-provoking questions. Meanwhile, Margot is wise, kindhearted and rebellious. But, above all, both characters are extremely loveable. You cannot help but be moved by their friendship and stories. Even in the face of death, Lenni and Margot admirably choose life.
Undoubtedly, The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot will make you cry, but it will also warm your heart.