“It was Woman’s Hour who suggested I keep a diary. They said it was good for mental health, and I must say I did feel much less frazzled after writing everything down yesterday. The frustrations were all still there, but somehow smoothed out – as if by a really good steam iron.”
Mrs Narwhal is overwhelmed. Her husband, Hugh, is unkind and unhappy – working every hour at a job he hates to save the ancestral home he never wanted. Then there’s Hugh’s sister, Rose, who’s spurned her one true love, and ricochets from crisis to crisis; and not to mention two small boys to bring up safely in a house that could crumble around their ears at any moment…
When Hugh’s pride receives a fatal blow, and he walks out, Mrs Narwhal is plunged into a crisis of both heart and home. With help from Rose she sets out to save the house her husband couldn’t. But can she save her marriage? And does she really want Hugh back?
Funny, charming, and moving, Mrs Narwhal’s Diary is an irresistible story which will enchant and delight its readers.
Back with the classic Damp Pebbles Blog Tours/Louise Walters Books combo! I love the books Louise publishes – so far I have read The Naseby Horses, In The Sweep of the Bay, Old Bones (and Helen Kitson’s previous book The Last Words of Madeline Anderson) and, most recently, The Dig Street Festival, all of which I highly recommend! When I read the blurb for Mrs Narwhal’s Diary, I thought it sounded like just the thing for a bit of entertaining, escapist reading. And it is – but it is so much more than that as well.
It has been a while since I have read a book set out in diary format – there is something delightfully old-fashioned about the idea of a written journal, and it works really well for both the character and the setting. Mrs Narwhal, whose first name we never find out, is quite traditional – her life is centred around domesticity and her roles as wife and mother. I think she is younger than she seems at first, though, and she is by no means stuffy or snobby or closed-minded. She’s a refreshingly original character – a woman who seems to have reached a kind of understanding of herself, and those around her, that allows her to see the world in her own unique way. She is funny and kind, and a pleasure to spend time with.
As her relationship with her husband, Hugh, deteriorates, the central relationship of the book becomes that of Mrs Narwhal and her sister-in-law, Rose. Rose is a great character – impulsive, sometimes frivolous, an excellent foil to the more sensible Mrs N. Both women, however, are nursing deep hurts and disappointments, and although their friendship is far from frictionless, the tenderness they show towards each other is a beautiful thing to witness. In many ways, the help these two women give each other really is the main story of the novel – and it is really quite moving and, I think, different, to see this particular ‘sister-in-law’ relationship foregrounded.
I think I am probably in @brownflopsy‘s camp of NOT being a big fan of Hugh – his behaviour seems selfish and indulgent, and while Mrs Narwhal has compassion for his deep-rooted sense of familial obligation to the crumbling estate, I am afraid I couldn’t muster much of the same. However, his actions do allow for some really poignant and insightful observations from Mrs N on the nature of long-standing relationships, of love, of the way it ebbs and flows in a manner that people don’t like to talk about. At the risk of sounding like a total cynic, I struggle with the idea that “love is constant,” that we fall in love with someone and remain deeply and whole-heartedly in love with them for the rest of our lives. I think it is possible for love to come and go, to be lost and then found again, and this novel explores that idea in a surprisingly (for a book that is also very, very funny) deep way.
There is a lot of humour here, a lot of big, bold characters, set pieces, running jokes (where ARE all the scissors, though?) and general light-hearted fun. But there is also truth, heart and a real understanding of human nature and the relationships that get us through or hold us back. The ending is satisfying, without wrapping everything up in a neat bow, and I finished the book much as I started it, rooting whole-heartedly for Mrs Narwhal. This is a lovely book, which offers real insight as well as delightfully quirky humour, and I strongly recommend checking it out for yourself.
About the Author
S J Norbury lives in Herefordshire with her family. Mrs Narwhal’s Diary is her first novel.
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3aDOjKw
Book Depository: https://bit.ly/3xscUMc
Mrs Narwhal’s Diary by S.J. Norbury is published by Louise Walters Books and is out now.