Friday, February 20, 2009
Camomile in Cornwall
Yesterday I finished reading The Camomile Lawn, by Mary Wesley, another in my series of war/post-war books. There's a miniseries adaptation of it, which I saw first, and then I wanted to read the book so much I got it interlibrary-loaned. Having now read it, I find that the film is extraordinarily faithful to the book. There were some points where the dialogue was so much the same that it seemed ever so slightly pointless to read the book at all, but writing was so lovely that this feeling never lasted long.
The book begins in 1939, in Cornwall, where Helena and Richard Cuthbertson live with their niece, Sophy. Every summer all their other nieces and nephews--Polly, Calypso, Walter, and Oliver--come to stay, and this summer all of them except Sophy, who is 10, are on the verge of adulthood. Add to this mix of characters the twins, Paul and David, sons of the town Rector, two Austrian refugees, Max and Monika Erstweiler, and the various other people who attach themselves to the group throughout the story. We follow them through the war, as th
The writing always has a certain quality of memory, in the way some things can only be described by vague, skirting words that talk about the thing without saying so. The dialogue is often quite hilarious and snappy, and sometimes very, very blunt, and the characters are a lovely mix of reality and very real ridiculousness, and all of them very individual. It was for some reason a really addictive book, even though I knew exactly how it would end.