Much Dithering

First published in 1938, this is just lovely. The Ditherings, Much and Little are villages known for their peacefulness. Kept firmly in the past by the Honourable Mrs. Augusta Renshawe, there isn’t even a petrol pump and that’s the way the villagers like it. Our heroine is Jocelyn, a mild mannered 25 year old who has lived with her aunt in Much Dithering all her life. Tutored as a child with Augusta’s son Lancelot, the two fall into marriage at their families request and just get on with their lives hardly noticing any difference to their routines. Lancelot keeps up with his stamp collection and rare tulips and Jocelyn can be counted on to deliver the parish magazine and play the piano at social gatherings. Even when Lancelot dies, Jocelyn’s life doesn’t change. Her small circle includes the vicar’s wife, her aunt and her mother in law, and the grumpy old Colonel Tidmarsh who they’ve decided she should marry.

But then a new family arrive, parvenus they can be up to no good, and Jocelyn’s mother, Ermyntrude Lascelles, who ‘despised her daughter for her lack of initiative and fondness for good works’, but needs a bed now that her husband has died and low and behold the rich young man she’s got her eye on has given his address as . . . Dithering Place!

It’s obvious from the beginning that this is going to be a story about Jocelyn’s awakening, something has to save her from her ‘charming Victorian dignity’ , but the cast of characters that arrive in Much Dithering: the mysterious Gervase Blythe, the desperate to fit in Murchison-Bellaby’s and especially Ermyntrude, back from India and Egypt, she’s ‘extremely decorative’ with a complexion ‘that’s a credit to the little place just off Gloucester Road from which it came.‘; and a chorus of villagers, led by Mrs Faggot and Mrs Goodbun, all ready to help or hinder, make this a gloriously silly comedy of manners that leaves us guessing how her blossoming is ever going to happen.

Jocelyn is a thoroughly likeable person who I really wanted the best for from the very beginning, it’s not always the best of writing but I was hooked straight away and when the mystery of the jewel thief becomes the village scandal I was really chuckling right up to the delightfully happy ending.

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