Mrs Tim Carries On by D E Stevenson
If you made me walk the plank to force me to reveal my favorite kind of book – British Wartime Diaries/Fiction would be in my top three. (Obviously, if you felt strongly enough to make me walk the plank, you might not let me get away with not being able to narrow down past a top three. This would be sad). It has to be female. I’m not interested in seventeen different versions of The Guns of Navarone. You have to be easily able to imagine it being turned into a black and white film with rubble, Spitfires and rushed good-byes on train stations. I love those films. (Not Brief Encounter though. Blimey, they were boring. I cheered to the rafters when he said he was emigrating. I thought he’d never leave.) In these deeply troubled times, there’s nothing I love to read about more than a woman picking her way through blitzed streets in sensible shoes doughtily in search of the last sausage.
Actually, there is not too much of that here. Mrs. Tim is the wife of “Tim of the Regiment” and during the war, they are posted in a Scottish town. There is nowhere near as much action as there is in say “A Chelsea Concerto” (a personal favourite). There are different kinds of pleasures to be had here. Military wives, serving while standing and waiting, packing knitted mittens for soldiers (how do you get your fingers round the triggers?) and planning Children’s Christmas parties on limited budgets. (Shall they have a toy drum or a dear little bus conductors uniform)?
Most of Mrs. Tim’s life is a foreign land to me. Her son is sent away to school as is the norm. She has servants (cue stern but good-hearted cook) and her younger daughter does not seem to need very much care at all – she seems to disappear for days on end and then appear at random for tea-time.
Mrs. Tim and her pals have lunch together and discuss the war but, certainly, in the beginning, there is no sense of fear for the future. You could never imagine them thinking of say… a concentration camp. The war does break in eventually, People are sent away and then go missing and a visit to her brother in London is a shock to the system.
This book is part of a series and we can follow her life after the war. I probably won’t. There’s too much else I want to read. I liked it a lot though. It is gentle with a bit of a kick. All the shooting and blowing up is strictly off screen but you are left in no doubt there is a war on and it is part of everything – every thought, every plan, every relationship. It left me hoping that all goes awfully well for Mrs. Tim in the future and you can’t say fairer than that.