Sunday, March 1, 2009

Guest Blog - The Camomile Lawn

I am so glad that the Bookrater’s blog is subtitled “or what I'm reading now.” I am not reading anything intellectual. In fact it was several years ago that I read The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley. However, I came across the DVD of the novel the other day at the library and just had to check it out. Needless to say, there was way too much sex for my taste when I read the book. I should not have been surprised that the televised version was the same. I think I saw more nudity in this series than I have ever encountered before. Perhaps that is partly due to the fact that it was a mini series produced in the UK with five episodes. But I kept on watching even though I resorted to fast forwarding through a few conversations between individuals in their all together.

I was attracted to the novel in the first place because it is the story of an English family. The story covers the summer of 1939 and continues into the years that Britain was at war. All of the young people who are carefree while visiting their Aunt Helena in Cornwall with the lawn planted in camomile find themselves dealing with the world as it changes when their nation goes to war. Of course all of the young men join the military. One of the girls goes to work for the war office.

This looked like my type of book until I got into it a bit. I did not read about Mary Wesley until I watched the DVD this past week though. She was born in 1912 but did not have her first adult novel published until she was 71 years old. Over the next twenty years she had several best sellers. I noticed that the Sunday Times obituary writer seemed to be sympathetic with my view of her novel. “But the vast amount of time her characters spend thinking about bedroom matters was, perhaps, both her selling point and her one shortcoming as a writer. Occasionally, one could not escape the suspicion that she was going out of her way intentionally to shock.”

By the end of The Camomile Lawn I had come to the conclusion that not one person in her novel had any sense of sexual morality. The uncle put his hands up the skirts of little girls, the young adults slept with everyone they met and even the ten year old in the story confesses at a funeral forty some years later that her first sexual encounter was with a family friend who was about forty years her senior.

In a depressed mood, I picked up D.E. Stevenson’s novel about post WW II at the library. Mrs. Tim Gets a Job is the story of an army wife who decides to get a job while her husband is stationed in Egypt and her two children are away at school. Hester ends up assisting the owner of a bed and breakfast in Scotland. On one occasion Mrs. Tim and Erica discuss the behavior of a Mrs. Ovens whose husband is still posted aboard in the military.

“About that lady.”
“Nasty piece of work!”
”Erica,” I say in a lower voice, “There’s something odd going on between her and Mr. Wick. Perhaps I should have told you before but...”
“Something odd!” exclaims Erica fiercely, “What a way to talk! I hate mimsey-mouthed people - why can’t you call a spade a spade!”
I am so roused by the accusation of euphemisms that I tell Erica in Elizabethan language exactly what I suspect
(Stevenson, p 138-9).

This exchange recorded by Stevenson is exactly my kind of reference to sexual encounters on the page. She left no doubt of what was going on and left me chuckling over their conversation.
Undoubtedly because of authors like Wesley, I keep on reading mysteries. Even with mysteries I prefer discreet references to the characters' love lives and sketchy information about violence. There is a long list of best sellers by Mary Wesley but I don’t think I am going to be checking them out at the library or looking for them on

1 comment:

Blogger said...

Of course, you know this review just makes me want to watch the naughty DVD!!!