Monday, March 13, 2023

Out of the Rain by Elizabeth Cadell

Title: Out of the Rain
Author: Elizabeth Cadell
Publication: William Morrow, hardcover, 1987
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Late 20th-century Britain
Description: Edward Netherford is a quiet London lawyer who inherited some difficult clients from his father and is forced to go to Yorkshire in an attempt to retrieve some paintings they inherited. When all the hotels are unexpectedly full, he winds up staying with an eccentric family, headed by an attractive young widow with three young sons. It turns out his closest friend is in love with her, so Edward, also smitten, tries to stay distant and this is easy because her household is the opposite of the orderly life he has chosen.  Against his better judgment, he is intrigued:
He paused. “If you ever go to London, I hope you’ll let me know. I should like to see you again,” he ended.

He deplored her untidiness, her lack of method. He considered her devotion to her children excessive, unwise and short-sighted. He thought her good looking, but he was disconcerted by the way she presented herself to the world just as she was, without adornment or assumed social graces. One part of him regretted having to leave this unusual household, but on the whole, he thought, it would be a relief to get back to people who conformed to what he thought of as normal behavior.
Pursuing his clients’ paintings which are being held hostage by their quirky stepmother, Mrs. Brockman, requires several more trips to Yorkshire where Edward gets to know Estelle and her family better. He also becomes unexpectedly appreciative of Mrs. Brockman, although he disapproves of her determination to repay her adult stepchildren for their condescending treatment of her. As always, the author treats her readers to a lighthearted plot and vivid characters.

My Impression: Cadell is always charming but in this book I couldn’t help feeling the juxtaposition of a hero who is used to an orderly life in a service flat in London (“I would have thought rooms were a bit dreary – but if they’re service rooms, they do everything for you, don’t they?” “Everything,” he said, and tried to keep the pleasure out of his voice.) and a woman who can’t make toast without burning it and three unruly children may be doomed to failure when they set up house in suburbia. Luckily, Cadell realized this and provided them with a housekeeper!

I am always intrigued by the description of service flats in books. I suppose in the days before take-out was common, having meals provided, not to mention maid service as needed, would have been very appealing for those who had not been brought up to care for themselves and did not need or could not afford full-time staff.
Estelle is an attractive free spirit but in real life, it is hard to imagine she would have encountered or attracted four such eligible bachelors as those in this book. She lives in a tiny village which she rarely leaves, so how would she meet them; she has three small children; she has barely enough money to live on – this is a lot for anyone to want to take on! I remember a divorced friend in New York being rudely told on a blind date that she was lucky she didn’t have children or no one would have wanted to date her.

Source: Library. Not the most memorable Cadell – I had no recollection of reading it several years ago – but certainly entertaining.  I am happy to say most of her books are back in print.


RuthW in MD said...

I've read many of Cadell's books, and have several favorites. But THIS one I never even finished because it felt so confused to me. Thank you for mentioning it. It is still on my "don't bother to read" list.

Michelle Ann said...

Your comment on service flats mentions those who were 'not brought up to look after themselves', but I think it's forgotten that it was more a case of workers not having the time in the days before labour saving devices. My mother (like most married women) was a full time housewife, as she got up at 6am to light the fire so we would have heat and hot water (no central heating), she food shopped every day (until we got a fridge), she washed most clothes by hand and sent others to the laundry (until we got a washing machine). There was no microwave or prepared meals, so cooking took up a long part of the day. Before electric kettles, even making a cup of tea seemed to take half an hour! People have forgotten how much has changed in the last fifty years.

CLM said...

Good point, Michelle! I always smile at books where the characters are "hard up" but still have staff to do the washing and cleaning. That was certainly not the case for my great-grandmother who married a widower with three children around 1914 and then had four of her own. The laundry! (I've seen pictures of the girls in their starched dresses and hair ribbons) The cooking! The Depression! I don't know how they managed.

Ruth, even a lesser Cadell is still well worth reading!

Cadell Fan said...

I love this book. The first time I read it, I was enthralled. Poor Edward, having to deal with those horrible women demanding that their step-mother return the three impressionist paintings, or else!!! Edward's friend Tom, whose motel burned in a fire, clearly didn't have a room for him while he was traveling to meet with the step-mother to see if he could professionally request the return of the paintings. Instead of a motel, he was given a list of bed and breakfasts that might have a room available, after 11 p.m. He found Estelle's house, messy and noisy, but it's somewhere to sleep until he could hopefully find a better place. Estelle was pretty, has three sweet babies, mom and granddad living with her, and a very messy unorganized house. Estelle lost her husband and is not in a hurry to marry a man who might not care about her three precious children. Edward falls in love with her, but his best friend, Tom, is also in love with her. Another man in her town is also in love with her. She is beautiful but not in love with any of them, until Edward comes to her door after midnight in the rain, needing a room... I love this story and am grateful for the Cadell heirs to put it on audio. It will be coming out soon.