I have been of a calamitous nature for the past few days. On Monday night I bent down to pick a bit of fluff up of the floor then banged my head on the doorknob on the way back to upright, leaving me with a really rather lovely egg-shaped bump on my fore-head.Then last night in a fit of away with the fairies I poured boiling water over my thumb as I was making a cup of tea and had to sit down for a shocked Mummy time out. A little something I could really do with spreading over the next ten days if only so I could gather my faculties and get my co-ordination a-go-go again... So I went to bed early. I shimmied around my bedroom, tidying this and straightening that, put new pillowcases on the bed, lit sandalwood incense, made a cup of chamomile and crawled into bed with my Kindle, newly housed in an olive green and tan leather cover. I thought I was tired, I rather thought I would be asleep within a moment or two, but as I rooted through my Kindle archive I happened across a book that I don't remember downloading and before I knew it I was lost to the gentle, hilarious domestic life of one Joanna Maynard, a thirty something girl about town with a career in publishing and a lifetime long love of home-making.
" The many interests of her erratic big being were over-topped and dominated by home passion. From the time she was five years old, she was nesting under the weeping elm, under the valance of the guest room bed, under anything that would sketch ceiling and walls to house her dream. At ten she formed her first settled habitation in a disused woodshed and hopped in and out with her straws and feathers all one ecstatic Spring, weaving her little mirade of home."
We meet her as she is buying her very first house, after many a year spent renting. She is awash with ideas and cannot wait to get started but takes it into her head that she must have both a housekeeper and a man about the house, who will preferably be a "slightly disabled soldier", someone in need of temporary charity who will not mind working for free in exchange for bed and board. Enter then, the coquettish Mrs Roberts and the absolute darling that is the octogenarian Captain Brewer, both of whom establish themselves as part of the household, whilst harbouring funny little secrets about their previous lives, and causing Joanna no end of teeny
tiny dramas and relentless exasperation
(The help seems to be as temperamental as the lettuce, she sighed).
And so begins a gorgeous story that is as delightful in it's humorous take on what it is to have staff with opinions, as it is when the love story at it's heart reveals itself, and Joannafalls in love with a deeply flawed, somewhat damaged, but rather charming someone and the true purpose of her dedication to keeping house comes to light.
It really is wonderful. So absolutely wonderful that I stayed awake until it was finished and then put my Kindle down with a contented sigh. Of course very little happens, and there isn't a true baddie in the whole book, but that doesn't matter at all, because readingJoanna Builds a Nest felt rather like staying for a while in a good friends country house, an experience only marred by the fact that the only e-book on the internet currently available is truly, truly terrible in it's transcription and is at times so bad it is almost illegible, with random characters inserted into sentences, every few paragraphs interrupted by the repitation of the chapter title and a few words, possibly made up altogether for laughs, for surely there isn't a writer in history who would write the sentence below...
"Joanna lay bumingly awake in her lumpy bed, amazed before the overwhelming richness of life."
Bumingly? Bumingly??? Is that even a word? Apparently so: though it isn't in any dictionary, investigation reveals its appearance in a few older American tomes, but oh how it pains me to read it. Does it mean she lay like a bum, dwelling on the richness of life, or does it mean that lying in bed feeling overwhelmed by her lovely life is something of a bummer? I haven't a clue.
And so it goes on.
"Wooden plates, paper doillies, you could bum up most of them" remarks the object ofJoanna's affections later.
Hmmm. So in between odd turns of phrase, the random spit ups of OCR software and much illegible nonsense, I can only heartily recommend this particular version of JoannaBuilds A Nest to those truly dedicated to enjoying the simplest kind of vintage domestic fiction. Though saying that, those willing to persevere through much e-book nonsense, will I think be richly rewarded.
Because Joanna and her cast of household helps are a joy to behold and quite the most perfect reason to retire to bed early tonight, even if you aren't nursing a boiled finger or an eggy head.