The Vet’s Daughter
by Barbara Comyns
Growing up in Edwardian south London, Alice Rowlands longs for romance and excitement, for a release from a life that is dreary, restrictive and lonely. Her father, a vet, is harsh and domineering; his new girlfriend, brash and lascivious. Alice seeks refuge in memories and fantasies, in her rapturous longing for Nicholas, a handsome young sailor, and in the blossoming of what she perceives as her occult powers. A series of strange events unfolds that leads her, dressed in bridal white, to a scene of ecstatic triumph and disaster among the crowds on Clapham Common. The Vet’s Daughter is a uniquely vivid, witty and touching story of love and mystery.
‘It’s not about enchantment!, It’s about evil, the evil that can exist in the most humdrum of people.’
About the Author
Barbara Comyns (1909-92) was born in Bidford-on-Avon in Warwickshire. She was an artist and writer, worked in advertising, dealt in old cars and antiques, bred poodles and developed property. She was twice married, and she and her second husband lived in Spain for eighteen years, returning to the UK in the early 1970s. She is the author of eleven books, including Sisters by a River
(1947), Our Spoons Came from Woolworths
(1950), The Vet’s Daughter
(1959), The Skin Chairs
(1962) and A Touch of Mistletoe
(1967). She died in Shropshire in 1992
This was the first choice of the year for LBCWhiteswan, my second book club of the year and I have to say, what a pick!, I have never heard about this author or the book and ended up borrowing a copy to read. I didn’t know anything about the book when I started reading, I had tried to find the blurb originally but there seem very little. So going in blind turned out to lead to a wonderful little read. It’s a small book, and I managed to read it with a few hours, admittedly stopping and starting when things got a bit off track, by this I mean ‘what the heck moments’. I had to stop and think about what was going on then dived right back in.
‘Besides the beauty, there were the sounds: the snap of a stick, the hard rustle of a frozen leaf, the crack of the breaking ice.’
The story is about a young girl who lives with her parents, her dad is a vet and believes that living in London will be better for the family only to get there and find the advert had glorified the state of the city. Alice helps her father with the animals, walking the dogs and looking after the animals that nobody wants or are ailing, like the talking parrot who ends up living in the toilet, poor thing. Her mother who didn’t work, then becomes ill, and is dying, the family have help from a Mrs Churchill to nurse her and a locum vet, who Alice calls Blinkers.
The story is told from Alice’s point of view and to me it was such a lovely story. It was like we were dipping our toes into a moment of time and hearing and seeing about a whimsical girl’s point of view who didn’t know much about the world thanks to her father having control on watch she did.
I loved the writing style, I loved the descriptions she gave of the ice cracking, or the people going up the stairs, I loved the character descriptions, although short I felt I knew what they were like. It was the typical story of there’s a man who likes her but she doesn’t feel the same way because ‘he doesn’t fit’ her description of men.
‘If only men were like the heroes in books, how lovely it would be to get married and have a cake like that!’
But I think we’re all like that in some way. The characters were wide and varied and could be liked or disliked. But in the end it’s a short story of a girl’s view on life.
‘The gratitude for life itself!’
At book club is caused quite a stir and you can read more of it here
But please pick up a copy and let me know what you think, I thought it was a lovely little book and would recommend it to people, it’s actually made me realise how good book club is in getting me to read stuff I wouldn’t think of. This year could be the one to open my eyes to some fantastic authors
In the meantime, I’m going to try to get a copy of her book – Our spoons came from Woolworth’s
Thank you for reading