When I started this book, I was a tad confused. It seemed to instantly run away with me. I couldn’t seem to fathom what on earth was going on, who all the characters were and why there seemed to be so many of them (there weren’t as many as I imagined), and why I just didn’t know what was happening. Why were they all in a tree house? How did they get up there? I knew I probably couldn’t climb up into a tree house, and this seemed to take over all the space in my brain! I started to panic!! Slowly but surely though, I started to breathe and was able to concentrate on the story itself.
And indeed, there is some measure of underlying panic that I sensed in Mrs Narwhal’s measured attempt to keep everything and everyone calm and on the straight and narrow, even though things were literally falling apart around her. She has found herself in a family that is staunchly committed to its traditions, regardless of the rapidly increasing mess that it’s landing them in. The ancestral Narwhals may have been ‘to the manor born’, but that manor is now very much in decline, literally falling down around their ears, and there’s no money to restore it to its (she assumes) former glory).
While Mrs Narwhal attempts to maintain a positive outlook, regardless of the constant disasters she needs to rescue them all from, her husband Hugh is a little black cloud of doom. I could have merrily throttled him! Thankfully he decides to leave and his wife is then left to deal with his sister who is also a bit of a train wreck. But surprise, surprise, with Hugh gone, the ladies actually manage to make a go of things without him. To me it was like he was blocking any positive energy from ever having a chance of seeing the light of day, but once he was gone, POW!! The ladies were left to get on with things and get on they did!
Mrs Narwhal decides to follow the advice given on Women’s Hour, to keep a diary. She’s surprised to find that this becomes far more helpful to her than she ever imagined. By writing everything down, she’s able to unburden herself of the chaos that her life has become, and once she gets it all out of her head, she’s able to make more sense and order of things.
As life starts to take on a different trajectory to what Mrs Narwhal and Rose could ever have expected they start to wonder if they even need or want Hugh to return. What would happen if the Narwhals create some entirely new, and different traditions?
This is a warm, endearing story about the complexities of family responsibility and how far back or forward that responsibility should stretch. What should we expect from future generations, if anything, especially when conditions change so drastically that these expectations become literally impossible to fulfil? It’s about relationships: friendship, in its many varying forms; marriage with all its pitfalls (sadly not many joys are included here); parenting (Mrs Narwhal is a lovely mother to her two boys and I was particularly fond of her in this role) and all the diverse interactions we have with those who cross our paths, whether briefly of perhaps for a bit longer.
One of my favourite quirks of the book is that Mrs Narwhal is never actually named, which I found gave the overall setting a bit of an olde worlde setting with soft, fuzzy edges. It’s a 4 star read, and I thank Damp Pebbles blog tours for inviting me along. This is the last day of the tour, but take a look at what other bloggers have said about Mrs Narwhal’s Diary …
About S.J. Norbury:
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