Friday, 15 June 2018

Reading the 80s - 1984

I've only read one book for this self-imposed challenge this time:

The Camomile Lawn - Mary Wesley

Although I didn't watch it, I remember the TV series of this book coming out - in the early 90s I think. There seemed to be a lot of noise about it at the time and 2 very different things stick in my head.

The first is The Mary Whitehouse Experience drawing attention to all the sex in it and asking who could sit through all that, and Hugh Dennis in his character of dodgy overcoat and sour milk loving man Mr Strange saying it was his favourite show.

The other was a gardening program (possibly Gardeners' World, but I wouldn't want to take bets) explaining the (im)practicalities of trying to grow a Camomile Lawn, which the series had clearly made people want to do.

Having now read the book I'm not sure how it translated onto the screen. It works very much because the situation that all the cousins and aunts and uncles and friends and other protagonists are in, from their first definite knowledge that war is coming on that hot summer night out on the Camomile Lawn, is slowly explained, through people's thoughts, and the frank but slightly oblique conversations the family all have - believable conversations, where often things aren't so much spelt out as acknowledged between people who have known each other all their lives and grown up together, and which make less sense without having the thoughts as well.

There are reasons behind the sex - none of which is explicit or detailed (which again the show must have struggled with) - that is so large a part of this book, but the book is not about sex. If anything I think it's more about relationships, and how they shift and restructure, and how family units expand
and hold together and members trust and interpret one another when under attack from outside.

Wesley also, after the first few pages, has a wonderful knack of making you care about the characters, and keeping them all distinct. Even moving back and forth between the past and the present, using the device of a funeral to explain these stirred up memories and why the family is converging again, the same people are the same - or still enough the same - that you don't get muddled.

(Although I did stop trying to work out who had slept with who after a bit).

Onwards to 1985..

No comments:

Post a Comment