Brown, Carrie. Lamb in Love. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 1999.
Reason read: the television show “All Creatures Great and Small” first aired in January. A lamb is a creature.
Vida Stephen at forty-one years of age is considered a spinster in her rural English village. She lives a simple life of being the nanny to a mute young man with mental challenges. She has cared for Manford Perry practically all his life after his mother died young and his father is often away for long periods of time, traveling overseas. Vida and Manford are all alone in the gigantic Southend House with its myriad of dusty and dim unused rooms. In truth they are all they know. The community collectively shakes its head and tsks, of the opinion Vida is wasting away caring for Manford all alone in the sad and crumbling mansion.
Then there is Norris Lamb. He thinks differently of Vida. Even though he has known her (and her situation for years) he has begun to slowly, slowly fall in love with her. Like Vida, he is single with seemingly one purpose in life, to be the village’s postmaster. His world centers on stamps. They represent the wonderment of worlds untraveled. When his love for Vida takes him in new directions it is as if he doesn’t recognize his old life anymore.
Vida, Manford, and Norris all go through a metamorphosis of sorts. I don’t think it is a spoiler to say this changing, by the end of the story, offers hope for a new beginning for each of them.
Brown’s writing had the ability to make me change my mind several times about each character. I oscillated between wanting triumph and hoping for failure and back again.
As an aside, I loved the way the moon was almost another character in the book. It is not a plot spoiler to say I loved how the moon caused Vida to dance with wild abandon at the fountain and kept Norris company on his lonely walk home. Additionally, there is the fact that on July 31st of that summer a man has done the unthinkable by actually walking on the moon.
Quotes I just have to mention, “And you don’t see a nearly naked woman dancing in the moonlight in a ruined garden and then just go about your business as though nothing has happened, do you?” (p 3), “And then he’d stopped, and his face had taken on a surprised expression, as if the feeling that pressed up out of his heart at that moment was transforming him into a different man” (p 53), “She felt indebted to a ghost and under constant surveillance” (p 59) and one more, “The ugly shape of jealousy was arranging itself in his heart (p 265).
Author fact: Brown also wrote Rose’s Garden and Confinement. The latter is on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: this book challenged my perception of love, romance, and relationships. It should be a movie.
Nancy said: Pearl just described the plot of Lamb in Love. She never really explains who has the interesting character.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the delightful chapter called “Real Characters” (p 197).