The Carpenter’s Children
As a writer/reader I find sagas irritating. I want to delve more deeply into the main character’s personality and motives, but sagas cover all the family members and long spaces of time; thus the writing tells a lot about too many characters for me to be deeply involved with. But a good saga is a corking good story, and Maggie Bennett writes some of the best.
The carpenter is Tom Munday who lives, with wife and three children, in the village of North Camp, southern England, in 1904. Violet Munday loves her husband and is ambitious for her children. Ernest she hopes will become a clerk in a bank or solicitor’s office. Beautiful Isabel, the good child, she hopes will teach. Grace, the naughty, hot tempered baby of the family she worries about, but hopes nursing might calm her.
As a good saga should, we follow the Mundays, their friends and community, through all the radical changes that take place in the early 20th century. These historical details are one of Maggie Bennett’s strengths. Her research is excellent and used not as a history lesson, but to show how they affect the characters. Grace and her friends are influenced by Hollywood films and dream of being ‘discovered’ and becoming film stars. Ernest is bright, but religious, and becomes a pacifist. Isabel falls in love when fifteen, but he is a curate and much older. Tom watches his children grow and struggle, helps when he can, and reaches his own kind of peace in 1919 with his daughters near him. It’s a comfortable ending, the good get their earthly rewards, and the bad receive their just desserts. That’s what sagas do, provide a comfortable read. This is an excellent book for bedtime reading – one chapter a night to cheer you up.