The story was promising but not exactly what I was hoping for. The book title comes from a situation where the curate of the village North Oxford must explain to the vicar's wife why he missed evensong. While he had in fact been wandering the countryside with his friend Miss Morrow, he decided to tell Mrs. Wardell that he was visiting a sick friend in Crampton Hodnet (a village Miss Morrow believes he made up on the spot). I thought the village name was perfect. So proper, nothing untoward could happen in Crampton Hodnet. Quite happy with this development, I thought we were going to be exposed to a "Bunbury" situation where Crampton Hodnet is used frequently to get the curate out of a jam. No such luck. This is the only time the village is mentioned. Odd then that it is the title of the book.
The story takes place in and around the village of North Oxford. The Cleveland family make up three of the main characters. Mr. Cleveland is a middle-aged college professor who thinks he's in love with one of his students. Mrs. Cleveland spends all her energy running the household and enjoys her husband's lack of attention. Daughter Anthea is 20 and regularly falls in love with one of this year's crop of new students at the local college. The Clevelands are a silly upper class family who are unsure how to find happiness, or realize they have found it, as they stumble through their lives.
As with any small town, everyone is involved in everyone else's business and the highlight of many a resident's day is to be the one to expose the latest scandal. Pym did a great job creating the many characters who make up the village of North Oxford.
In addition to the whole Cleveland storyline, we also follow the new curate, Mr. Latimer, who takes up residence with the elderly and forceful Miss Dogett (Cleveland's aunt) and her thirty-something-year-old companion Miss Morrow. There are hints of a scandal in Mr. Latimer's past but no details. While most of the women of the village swoon at the sight of the handsome young curate, Miss Morrow is impervious to his charms. They strike up a very nice friendship. Mr. Latimer is the only one who treats her as an equal, while the rest if the village see her as just another of Miss Dogett's appendages. I was really hoping for more from this relationship as I enjoyed the scenes involving these two. After Latimer bumbles his way through a half-hearted marriage proposal, which Miss Morrow declines, the relationship peters out. I wasn't exactly looking for a Mr. Darcy/ Elizabeth Bennett type resolution. Just more of their interesting back and forth conversations, filled with innuendo going over the other villagers' heads. I really wanted Miss Morrow to have something that was just hers. Together they seemed better than the smallness of the village. So when Mr. Latimer comes home from his holiday in love with a 19-year-old girl, I was disappointed. Disappointed in him, yes, but more disappointed in Pym for wrapping things up a little too neatly..
I wanted a little more farce but was happy enough with this gentle comedy of manners. More Pym for me.