Publication: William Morrow, Hardcover, 1955 (previously published in England)
Setting: 20th century England
Plot: First in a trilogy about the Wayne family, The Lark Shall Sing is a lively, humorous story about six orphaned siblings trying to find their way as a family in a small English village. After their mother died, eldest sister Lucille rented their home, Wood Mount, for a year. Now she says the best thing for everyone is to sell the house, but the rest of the Waynes react violently to that suggestion. While 24-year-old Lucille returns to Greenhurst to put the house on the market, the other siblings all head home as well: Nicholas, fresh out of the army, with empty pockets and a motorcycle that breaks down every few minutes; Roselle, the most beautiful and inept secretary in London; Simon and Dominic, who have been living with an aunt, now more interested in her own child; and Julia, 10, who runs away from school when she hears the news. Lucille is lovely and headstrong, and engaged to the worthy Digby. When her brothers and sisters start arriving home, Lucille is astounded by their determination to keep Wood Mount and by the odd collection of people befriending her siblings and turn up with them: Miss Cornhill, a retired school matron who helps the hapless Roselle; Pietro, an excitable Italian and the only person sees the future beauty in homely Julia; and movie star Robert Debrett, who helps the younger boys get home and becomes intrigued by the lovely Lucille. Even her parents’ oldest friends, the mother and father of Roselle’s beau, Jeff, think Lucille has been a little ruthless, and no one understands she is trying to do what is best for everyone... or is it?
Audience: Fans of light romantic English fiction, such as D.E. Stevenson, Angela Thirkell, Miss Read, P.G. Wodehouse (well, he’s only incidentally romantic but you see what I mean).
What I liked: Cadell was a prolific author and while all her books are charming, this series is especially funny. The impromptu family reunion, accompanied by uninvited yet opinionated guests, determined to articulate their concerns to Lucille, supremely uninterested in their points of view, is amusing. It reminded me of the house party books I always enjoy, where everyone converges on a particular place and that location operates almost as its own character. Cadell, as always, is gifted at depicting major and minor characters, almost all of them quirky and some of them full of dry humor. I like how her characters argue and interrupt each other constantly. Unfortunately, most of her books are out of print so it may be hard for you to find copies. Check your library or bookfinder.com.
As the eldest and bossiest of four, I identify with Lucille, who is just trying to do what she thinks best for her siblings, with limited finances. In fairness to her, none of them told her what they wanted (although she should have known Simon shouldn’t be separated from his beloved dog), yet everyone gangs up against her to save their home and that hurts her feelings. Luckily, it makes a good story and everything works out for the best.
Source: I don’t own this Cadell, but reminded of the Wayne family by someone on the Cadell Facebook page, I requested it from the library to reread. Of course, I then had to request books 2 and 3. Quite a contrast to The Boys in the Boat, which I read last week for my book group and also enjoyed.