This book is a perfect case for disregarding the fifty page rule. I tend to be a very visual reader so if early on there is no concrete image of a setting or characters and all that is before me is paper and ink, my mind will drift. Thank goodness I hung in there for at page fifty-eight my love affair with L. P. Hartley's The Boat began.
The interaction between the ladies downstairs, Beatrice and Effie, and their employer is hilarious. Offering up their resignation at every turn of a situation that fails to suit them speaks to the affable nature of Timothy Casson. A newcomer to the village, the servants really are his only companions for the time being but the beautiful Miss Cross, staying at The Nook, could change all that. Their first meeting led to instant fireworks but no sooner did they share a kiss then she was off to parts unknown. I can't wait for her to get back! World War II is in its early stages and so far seems a thousand miles away but the arrival of evacuees brings the war effort to the Old Rectory. Will two little boys running around the place throw the house and staff into chaos...
'The evacuees duly arrived, two little boys ages five and seven, and were warmly welcomed not only by Timothy but by Beatrice and Effie. They were shy and tongue-tied and almost paralysed in Timothy's presence, but as soon as his back was turned they broke into violent movement, kicking up their heels like colts and shouting at each other in strong Midland accents that caused some amusement to Beatrice and Effie. Questions arose about where they were to go and what parts of the house should be out of bounds to them; Timothy took them for a sight-seeing tour from room to room; they gazed wide-eyed but without seeming to take in what they saw, or kept each other's spirits up with nudges and whispered confidences when he was looking the other way. At the beginning he determined to see them every day after tea...'
The boat may have more to do with symbolism than anything else because at page one hundred and sixty it hasn't been out of the boathouse. A group of ex-servicemen from The Great War cherish their fishing rights and won't have the river disturbed while there are other pro-boat members egging Casson on to just go for it and stand up to the old set. At only one-third of the way through this charming story about village society and fitting in I expect anything to happen but wanted to share my thoughts thus far.