Saturday, 26 February 2011

Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D E Stevenson

I'd been meaning to read this for a while, having read other bloggers' enthusiastic responses to the book, and having greatly enjoyed Miss Buncle's Book, so was very pleased to get a copy as a present. Unfortunately, however, I found in Mrs Tim a rather disappointing hybrid of the Provincial Lady and Mrs Miniver.

The diary form, Mrs Tim's domestic and social concerns, especially with her appearence, and her social position are all strongly reminiscent of the Provincial Lady.  But the text lacks the satirical bite of Delafield's work and also its economy. Delafield can evoke (and skewer) a pompous bore in a few sentences; Stevenson tells us, strenuously and at length, why awful characters are so awful.  Mrs Miniver shares a definite smugness, one of her least attractive characteristics, with Mrs Tim. I did, however, enjoy Stevenson's characterisation of Mrs Tim's Scottish neighbour Mrs Loudon, whose robust good sense and direct manner lifted the narrative whenever she appeared.  Fortunately, for the last third of the novel, she appears a great deal.

Perhaps I've just missed the point of the book, but the sharpness, humour and outlandish cheek that made Miss Buncle's Book so good seemed to me to be absent almost entirely.  There are some interesting aspects to the novel: the portrayal of army life, the complex relationships between sectors of the middle-class, and the frequent references to money were all enlightening to some extent.  It may be that the later volumes, which deal with the war and its aftermath, do not need to resort to clearly contrived romantic plots and sudden outbursts of nature-worship to keep the narrative going.  But currently I don't feel inspired to find out for myself if they do.


  1. Although I enjoyed this book, I definitely agree that it suffers from comparison with Provincial Lady - and the first half is so very, very similar that I feel she must have had the PL in mind. Haven't read any of the others yet...