Friday, July 2, 2010

Mrs. Tim Carries On by D. E. Stevenson

307 pages
Published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston
1941, reprinted in the United States 1973

I absolutely love the Mrs. Tim books by D. E. Stevenson!

Mrs. Tim Carries On is the second in a series of four books chronicling the day-to-day life and adventures of Hester Christie, wife to Captain Tim Christie an officer in a Scottish Regiment. As one might guess from the cover art of this book, the story is set several years after the first book (Mrs. Tim of the Regiment, a.k.a. Mrs. Tim Christie) leaves off. England is now in the midst of another war with Germany (it is the early years of World War II and America has not yet joined in). Throughout the novel Hester and her friends and family must make the best these dark and difficult times as they "do their part" and watch their loved ones, including Tim, march off to battle.

Although Mrs. Tim Carries On is a little darker than its predecessor it is appropriately so; one should expect nothing less of a novel set in the midst of World War II -- and yet, Stevenson struck a balance in this story between the real life struggles, hardships, and loss with the day-to-day normality and occasional adventure that a military wife and mother to two young children might encounter. Of course there is also plenty of witty dialogue, curious characters, and even a romance between two supporting characters to add to the enjoyment of this read. Mrs. Tim does indeed "carry on" in this novel and I found it to be a delightfully witty, interesting and all around charming read.

To add to the enjoyment factor is to learn that the Mrs. Tim books are actually based off D. E. Stevenson's own diaries! Apparently she was inspired to write the books when a friend requested Stevenson jot down some of her experiences as an officer's wife for her friend's daughter, a newlywed to an officer in a Scottish regiment. Stevenson sent over her diaries and the friend's daughter replied that they were so good they should be published.

One might think that books based on a diary wouldn't be that exciting and maybe in some cases that would be true, but not so with but D. E. Stevenson. In her Mrs. Tim books she has weaved fact and fiction together so seamlessly that it's hard to know where one leaves off and the other begins. I find the interesting little snippets of life in England during the early years of WWII absolutely fascinating and surreal. To imagine young children walking off to school with a gas mask slung over their shoulder is so foreign to me. And then there's the entertaining little bits, like when characters mention going to see a movie that recently arrived in the theater -- movies such as Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and Rebecca!

The Mrs. Tim books are indeed worthwhile reads and a treasure to anyone who can get their hands on a copy. Thankfully the first book, Mrs. Tim of the Regiment is once again available ($8-$10), but readers looking for the rest of the series will either need to spend a good deal of money to obtain a used copy ($30+) or check with their library or library's Inter Library Loan program. I had to do the latter to obtain this read and any of the rest in the series, but in my opinion it was worth the trouble. I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series, Mrs. Tim Gets a Job, which I will be reviewing here, so stay tuned!

Related Links:
Mrs. Tim of the Regiment (Bloomsbury)
D. E. Stevenson Books

Related D. E. Stevenson Posts & Book Reviews:
Mrs. Tim of the Regiment
Miss Buncle's Book
Miss Buncle Married
The Two Mrs. Abbotts
Rochester's Wife
Celia's House
Listening Valley
The Blue Sapphire

Tuesday Teasers: Mrs. Tim of the Regiment
Tuesday Teasers: The Blue Sapphire
Tuesday Teasers: Listening Valley
Tuesday Teasers: Miss Buncle Married


Nicola said...

Thanks for reviewing this! The first one was my favourite of the Bloomsbury reprints so far. I'm going to wait a bit and see if they are going to print the sequels (since they've already got one of their other books' sequel printed) but if they don't I'll definitely be ILL-ing them. Loved your review!

Mystica said...

I just finished reading and reviewing the first of the series and now am looking for the next. Thanks for this review.