This is another Furrowed Middlebrow reprint, which I think Dean Street Press sent me. I had no idea what to expect from this book but was soon absorbed, even though nothing much happens. Bewildering Cares is set in a small town vicarage at the start of the Second World War. Camilla Lacely is happily married to scholarly, saintly Arthur. Their son Dick is in the army but not yet posted overseas. The premise is that Camilla is writing to an old friend, trying to explain to her just what life is like for a vicar’s wife at this time. The convenient old friend is soon forgotten as we follow Camilla on her endless round of parish duties. Never a day passes without at least three services, committee meetings or parish groups to be endured, on top of trying to run a big, cold house with little help. The help Camilla does have, Kate, is a delight: bolshie, speaking her mind, a fearless guardian of the front door and repeller of unwelcome visitors.
Poor Camilla has to be tactful with awkward parishioners, polite to people she heartily dislikes, and to feign enthusiasm for working parties where nothing gets done and Mothers’ Union meetings attended only by grandmothers because the young aren’t interested. The big event is the scandal caused by the curate preaching pacifism, thus outraging the parish and leading to calls for his resignation. There is absolutely no self pity in Camilla’s account, although there is much weariness. She is truly a good person, visiting the poor she’s so fond of and maintaining her faith. It’s not a life anyone would choose but it’s her life and she makes the best of it. How can you not like someone with this attitude to reading?
‘Arthur came in looking so exhausted that I went to the book-shelf and took out Mr. Mulliner Speaks. I propped this against the water-jug for him, and Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell, which I have read thirty times already and will probably read thirty more, against the loaf for myself. There is nothing so good for worried people as to read at their meals, and funny books if possible;’
Although Camilla has ‘holy’ books to read, she has ‘a sad feeling that The Daisy Chain is really the most uplifting book I have got through in bed, and even in that I have always skipped the frequent and harrowing death-beds.’ Recommended for people who like a quiet, domestic novel, intelligently and amusingly written.