Keeping it all in the family – “The Camomile Lawn” by Mary Wesley

March 16, 2014 at 4:17 pm Leave a comment

“The Camomile Lawn” by Mary Wesley, Published in 1984 

Though this review may not make it sound like it, I did love this book.  Wesley has a nonplussed British writing style that I really enjoyed.  This was my first Wesley novel so I look forward to reading more of her work.

Five cousins, Oliver, Calypso, Walt, Polly and Sophy, have a tradition of spending a month each summer at books-1their Aunt Helena and Uncle Richard’s house in Cornwall.  The summer we are introduced to the cousins is the last summer before England enters WWII and, coincidentally, the last summer they will spend all together. They are all in their late teens – except Sophy who is only 10 years old – and they are ready to take on the world.  They spend their time sprawled on their aunt’s camomile lawn, swimming, sunbathing, and planning elaborate games.  It is the last summer of their innocence.  The novel jumps forward 40 years as each of the cousins and Aunt Helena are on their way to a funeral.  It becomes a story woven as each character reminisces about those years during the war and everything that has happened since.

There are things in this novel that made me laugh out loud – Aunt Helena’s utter annoyance with Uncle Richard’s wooden leg, the cow running into the plate glass window (not terribly injured, don’t worry), ironing newspapers, Calypso’s honest claim that she is going marry a rich guy because she wants to be rich.  I suppose there were also touching moments but the characters don’t really take any of them very seriously so it is hard for the reader to either.  Wesley’s take on the war is that once it started it was a live-in-the-moment mentality.  This includes cousins sleeping with cousins who are sleeping with their aunt’s lover who in turn is sleeping with..well, everyone.

There is something deeper here -that family becomes your normal, that war and danger can be exhilarating, that sometimes memories are not the truth.  But you can choose to ignore the depth and just enjoy the romp, not unlike the characters themselves.  But really, you shouldn’t sleep with your aunt’s boyfriend. That is just weird.


Entry filed under: March 2014 reads. Tags: , , , , , .

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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