Friday, February 1, 2013

Meeting Mrs. Tim

Mrs. Tim of the Regiment, D.E. Stevenson

I first heard about D.E. Stevenson through the Georgette Heyer listserv I belong to, but I never came across any of her books until I noticed a shelf of them at a friend's house.  Lisa generously offered to loan me one (proving she is a better person than I am, because I will buy someone a book rather than loan mine out).  I have no idea which one I chose, but I remember I didn't get too far before returning it, and after that I mentally classed Stevenson as "not my type."

Since I started blogging, though, I've seen her books reviewed again and again, by some of my favorite bloggers.  I figured it was fate that I came across Miss Buncle's Book so soon after reading Teresa's review of it, and when I learned that Mrs. Tim is Claire's favorite among her books, I added a copy to my TBR stacks.  Fortunately, at least some of her books are available again, through Bloomsbury and now Sourcebooks (who, just to bring this full circle, have been reprinting Heyer's novels).

When packing became too stressful, I remembered comments about Stevenson's books being good comfort reads.  I started with Mrs. Tim because it's in the form of a diary, and as I think I've mentioned before, I love reading diaries whether historical or fictional.  From the introduction I learned that this novel is a bit of both, drawing on Stevenson's own diaries from her years as an army wife.  Her heroine, Hester Christie, is married to a captain, and the mother of two young children.  The story opens in January and covers six months of her life, as she copes with the usual upheavals of married life and parenthood, as well as social life in the regiment.  Then comes the news that her husband has been appointed "adjutant of a territorial battalion" in Scotland, which means house-hunting among strangers and then the upheaval of moving - with which I sympathized deeply, even though the Christies only had two packing-cases' worth of books.  The last third of the book takes place in the Highlands, where Hester spends a holiday with a friend she met in her new home (this section was originally published as a separate book).

This book felt rather familiar to me, and I decided that's because it reminded me of Diary of a Provincial Lady (which when I first read it brought to mind the Dowager Duchess's diary in Busman's Honeymoon).   Both share a telegraphic style, and a humorous, sometimes rather acidic narrative voice.  Both diarists have two children, a boy at school and a girl at home with a governess, in addition to a rather preoccupied husband and a sometimes chaotic domestic staff.  The two books aren't carbon copies, of course, and I enjoyed Mrs. Tim very much.  I was particularly interested in its army setting, since to this American reader the British Army organization and ranks are a little confusing.  I found Hester good company.  She has a quiet charisma that draws almost everyone she meets to her.  Women want to befriend her, men fall in love with her.  Among the latter is her husband's brother officer Major Tony Morley, whose attentions are clear to everyone else (he even turns up in the Highlands during her holiday).  Sometimes his conversation takes on overtones that make Hester uneasy, leading to a quick change of subject, but she seems completely oblivious to any wider implications.  I found her naivete rather unconvincing and even a bit irritating at times.  But that is only a minor quibble in a very entertaining book.  I'm looking forward to Hester's further adventures in the three books that follow (and thanks to Stevenson's own introduction to this one, I have a good idea of where the story takes Hester, Tim and even Tony).


  1. Ah, I have this on the TBR, so I'm pleased to see it is worth my attacking forthwith!

  2. (I think I mean 'tackling'. Oh well, both, I guess!)

  3. I read some of D.E.S's books years ago, when I was more in the habit of wandering aimlessly through the library stacks (obviously, it was a good habit!) I need to wander aimfully -- :) -- through again and find this series, having heard about it so often too.

    I love seeing 'What Happened' in your sidebar - I almost wish I could go back and read all the bits about Pride and Prejudice now.

  4. Vicki, I often feel like I'm attacking books :) not to mention ripping open packaging to get at new arrivals.

    Audrey, I need to make more time for wandering the stacks. I've found some of my favorite authors that way over the years. I am so delighted with Mullen's book that I am reading it very slowly, so that I don't miss any of those details that are so crucial and so endlessly fascinating.

  5. Mrs Tim has been here sitting on a bookshelf for ages, and one day I must really bring her out. I'm trying to cut my library borrowings and read my own books, but there are so many intriguing books in reserve stock and there's always the risk they'll be cleared out one day.

    I'm a similar school of thought to you when it comes to lending books. It always semm to be the people you think will be reliable who ill treat them or fail to give them back.

  6. Oh, Jane, I know that feeling. I love it when a book I'm interested in has to come from inactive storage - I always hope that will save it from culling.

    It's almost worse to get a book back that's been mistreated than to never get it back at all. And some of my books aren't easily replaced, either.

  7. I've read about Stevenson on the blogs for many years now, too, and need to give her a try. I own a copy of Miss Buncle's Book so that is where I will start. Her writing sounds funny and light.

  8. I haven't heard of this author but is sounds like someone whose books I would like, especially when a comfort read is prescribed. It's interesting how some books/characters/plots/premises remind you of others--sometimes it's the genre, or a real influence, sometimes it's a tone, but I know what you mean.

    Thanks for the review--I'll be adding some of these to my tbr shelf for when the mood strikes.

  9. I am so happy to hear that you liked this, Lisa! To me, this is the weakest of the Mrs Tim books, but still delightful. I agree about Hester's obliviousness to Tony's interest in her being unconvincing (especially in this book) but it is a minor flaw. As a person, I certainly like Hester better than the Provincial Lady (PL's inability to handle money drives me mad) but I love both series of books. PL is always funnier, though less warm than Mrs Tim. I hope you're able to track down the next three books and that you enjoy them just as much!

  10. I really enjoyed Mrs Tim but looking at Amberwell, which I plan to read soon, it seems to be very different. A 'friend' of mine once picked up a book of mine and immediately cracked the spine - I nearly fainted! I unfriended her. I hope you have settled into your new home.

  11. I really enjoyed Mrs Tim but looking at Amberwell, which I plan to read soon, it seems to be very different. A 'friend' of mine once picked up a book of mine and immediately cracked the spine - I nearly fainted! I unfriended her. I hope you have settled into your new home.

  12. Anbolyn, I have Miss Buncle as well - though I've resisted buying the sequels so far.

    Jane, I've learned about so many wonderful new authors through blogging, so I'm always pleased to introduce one myself!

    Claire, maybe I misunderstood, and it's the Mrs Tim books all together that are your favorites? in any case, I'm so glad to have learned about them from you - and to have more to look forward to.

    Katrina, I don't remember hearing about Amberwell before. I did think of you with the Scottish sections of Mrs Tim.


Thank you for taking the time to read, and to comment. I always enjoy hearing different points of view about the books I am reading, even if we disagree!