Baxter's Requiem by Matthew Crow #BookReview #BlogTour

Let me tell you a story, about a man I knew, and a man I know...

Mr Baxter is ninety-four years old when he falls down his staircase and grudgingly finds himself resident at Melrose Gardens Retirement Home. 

Baxter is many things - raconteur, retired music teacher, rabble-rouser, bon viveur - but 'good patient' he is not. He had every intention of living his twilight years with wine, music and revelry; not tea, telly and Tramadol. Indeed, Melrose Gardens is his worst nightmare - until he meets Gregory. 

At only nineteen years of age, Greg has suffered a loss so heavy that he is in danger of giving up on life before he even gets going. 

Determined to save the boy, Baxter decides to enlist his help on a mission to pay tribute to his long-lost love, Thomas: the man with whom he found true happiness; the man he waved off to fight in a senseless war; the man who never returned. The best man he ever knew.

With Gregory in tow Baxter sets out on a spirited escape from Melrose, bound for the war graves of Northern France. As Baxter shares his memories, the boy starts to see that life need not be a matter of mere endurance; that the world is huge and beautiful; that kindness is strength; and that the only way to honour the dead, is to live.

Baxter's Requiem is a glorious celebration of life, love and seizing every last second we have while we're here.

I bought a signed copy of Baxter's Requiem by Matthew Crow from Goldsboro Books a few months ago but hadn't managed to read it so I was  delighted when Anne Cater from Random Things Tours contacted me to ask if I'd like to be involved in the blog tour. It's such an honour to be sharing my review of this very special book today, many thanks to Anne, Matthew Crow and Corsair Books for inviting me.

I started book blogging after experiencing a huge loss which came as a cataclysmic shock and left me reeling for a long time afterwards. In the dark weeks and months that followed books became my lifeline, allowing me some respite from the raw grief tearing at my heart. How I wish Baxter's Requiem had been published at the time because this wonderful book touched my heart so deeply in the way only the very best stories can.
I could very readily empathise with Greg's loss and at just nineteen it's hardly surprising that he has been left floundering. His grief and guilt threatens to overwhelm him but then he grudgingly starts work at Melrose Gardens Retirement Home. The newest and rather reluctant resident there is ninety-four year old Mr Baxter who has come to stay temporarily following a fall in his own home. Baxter delights in being a troublemaker but for all his infuriating ways, he soon becomes a favourite among the staff. He sees the goodness in the diffident Greg and makes the decision to find out why he has been so hurt and to help him move on from that. Having experienced his own life-changing loss, he has an intense understanding of what it means to live without the person you were once closest to in the world.
Alongside the contemporary storyline, there are scenes set in the past which reveal how Baxter and Thomas found one another and it's clear that theirs was a once in a lifetime love. Back then, of course, they couldn't be open about their relationship but nevertheless they created their own perfect world for two until war cruelly infiltrated their happiness. Now in the twilight of his life, the still irrepressible Baxter wants to say goodbye to the best man he ever knew; his biggest fear is that when he is gone, Thomas will be forgotten. He never found out what happened to Thomas, who was declared missing, presumed dead but as he never returned, Baxter assumes he must be lying in an unmarked grave in France. The contrast between his devil-may-care attitude and his overwhelming need to make this journey is a touching demonstration of just what it means to him and it's not surprising that even those who are inconvenienced by his choices, can't help but will him to succeed. He enlists Greg's help and together they make a poignant pilgrimage to his lover's final resting place and in doing so, Greg begins to realise there is a world beyond the prison of his mournful self-condemnation.
The unlikely connection between the wily old rascal, Baxter who has seen and done it all and the stagnating Greg who still lives with his dad - a man unwilling or unable to be the supportive father his son so desperately needs - is a moving reminder that the unlikeliest of people can form meaningful bonds which transform their lives. I grew to love both men; Baxter reminded me of my Grandad, another man who never lost the twinkle in his eye or his ability to relate to others despite his own personal tragedies and Greg is revealed to be a thoughtful, compassionate young man, weighed down by his troubles but with a rare capacity for self-reflection. It's not just the two main characters who are so vividly created, the secondary characters also leap from the page to become real people. My firm favourite has to be Baxter's friend and fellow mischief-maker, Winnie who is a terrible influence on those around her and is a loving, warm and open-hearted woman always looking to see the good in people. I also loved Suzanne and Ramila; the former is manager of Melrose whose authoritative manner slips at times to reveal a woman who cares deeply about her residents and staff and is prepared to turn a blind eye to their misdemeanours, and the latter is arguably the world's worst receptionist - she begrudges having to do any work, flagrantly breaks the rules and has a terrible attitude towards authority and yet to see Greg's response to her genuine overtures of friendship and possibly more is heartwarming.
Despite the emotive subjects explored throughout the novel, it's actually often a very witty read and never becomes overly dispiriting or sentimental. Baxter's Requiem is an exquisitely beautiful story which has been crafted with love and an authentic, honest perceptiveness making it a life-affirming reminder of the importance of kindness, friendship and hope. I speak from experience when I say that books such as this will become a beacon of light to those who most need it. It acknowledges the shattering pain of loss but also accepts that such agony can only exist for those who have experienced the joys of a lasting love, whether romantic, familial or platonic. The best tribute to those who have gone is to, as Baxter says, " Live your life, live it bravely and beautifully." I cannot recommend this wise, emotional and unforgettable novel highly enough and feel immensely privileged to have read it, I urge you to do the same.

Baxter's Requiem is published by Corsair Books, purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Matthew Crow was born and raised in Newcastle. Having worked as a freelance journalist since his teens he has contributed to a number of publications including the Independent on Sunday and the Observer. He has written for adults and YA. His book My Dearest Jonah, was nominated for the Dylan Thomas Prize.


  1. I am so delighted that you loved Baxter as much as I did. Thanks for supporting the Blog Tour Karen x

    1. Thank you so much for inviting me to discover this wonderful book! xx


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