I’m on Book 16 of my 20 Books of Summer books list (intro post here) and this again is also part of my TBR project. This is one of the Dean Street Press Furrowed Middlebrow imprint books I bought in my book token splurge last summer, which is recorded in my my State of the TBR post from 1 August (I have now read and reviewed all but one of the books from that splurge, with that one up next in my 20 Books and being read by the time this review comes out!). You can read all about this one on its page on the DSP site here and my review of its prequel, “Nothing to Report” is here.

Carola Oman – “Somewhere in England”

(07 July 2021)

Having ended the last book in Midsummer 1940, we hop forward to 2 March 1942 for the start of this one, also published during World War Two with no knowledge of the outcome. Rather oddly, this one is in two parts, the first from the perspective of Philippa-Dawn (Pippa) Johnson, a young nurse going to work in the hospital at Woodside, then the second through Mary Morrison’s eyes, the central character in “Nothing to Report”. This makes it feel a bit like two books bolted together, but it does allow us to see the characters, including Mary, afresh, and it does work on the whole.

Pippa meets many of the characters from the earlier book. There’s more war action, with evacuees present and bombs dropping. Mary has moved back into her old stately home to run the hospital, and has rented out her cottages; she’s back in ownership of Woodside though I can’t say why without spoiling the plot. Dowager Lady Merle and her many children and grandchildren are still in full flow, and there are some nice dogs who all do OK. The patients and nurses of the hospital are portrayed in a lively manner (which reminds us a bit of “Yeoman’s Hospital“) and it’s confirmed pleasingly that we are indeed in Barsetshire, only guessed at in the first volume.

There are tragedies, sometimes having happened in the gap between the books, sometimes just off stage. There are also some lovely set-pieces: a fete in aid of the forces and the arrival of a carriage and horses, and views over the countryside that could be from any age from the Georgian onwards. There’s humour and the pathos of the situation, given that Oman, publishing in 1943, couldn’t have known the outcome. I wish she’d written more about these lovely characters!

There’s an introduction by Sir Roy Strong in both of these novels; he was a relative by marriage and still writes using Oman’s own desk, which is a lovely touch. A good read, and a lovely pair of reads, indeed.

This was book number 16 in my 20 Books of Summer 2022!

This was also TBR Challenge 2021-22 Quarter 4 Book 10/28 – 18 to go (and I’m reading Book 11! Am I going to make it by 5 October?)