This post is part of a blog tour organised by damppebbles. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.
“It was Woman’s Hour who suggested I keep a diary. They said it was good for mental health, and I must say I did feel much less frazzled after writing everything down yesterday. The frustrations were all still there, but somehow smoothed out – as if by a really good steam iron.”
“Mrs Narwhal is overwhelmed. Her husband, Hugh, is unkind and unhappy – working every hour at a job he hates to save the ancestral home he never wanted. Then there’s Hugh’s sister, Rose, who’s spurned her one true love, and ricochets from crisis to crisis; and not to mention two small boys to bring up safely in a house that could crumble around their ears at any moment…
“When Hugh’s pride receives a fatal blow, and he walks out, Mrs Narwhal is plunged into a crisis of both heart and home. With help from Rose she sets out to save the house her husband couldn’t. But can she save her marriage? And does she really want Hugh back?”
Mrs Narwhal’s Diary, by S. J. Norbury, is a comforting hug of a book. The diary format makes it an easy read as everyday and not-so-everyday events unfold through the endearing filter of the eponymous main character.
You can’t help but feel for Mrs Narwhal as she tries her best to keep the show on the road while all is falling apart around her. She makes some really funny observations as she grapples with bizarre family traditions, dreaded social occasions, parenting her lively young sons Pete and Billy, managing a house that’s continually sprouting new problems she can’t afford to fix, and much more.
When her husband, Hugh, leaves to ‘get money, save house, stop being a prick’, Mrs Narwhal finds herself feeling lost and needing to re-evaluate her life, but her cheerful, resourceful nature, and the fact that life continues around her and requires her input, means humour is never far away. Norbury balances light and dark well in the other characters too: Hugh and his sister, Rose, have funny characteristics and habits, but their lives are blighted by real problems that make them unhappy.
This is a novel that celebrates imperfection. While this comes through most obviously in Rose’s decision (with Mrs Narwhal’s assent) to open the house to the public as it is, rather than ‘putting on a show’ - with amusing results - it is also evident in the characters’ acceptance of one another’s shortcomings. They undergo positive transformations, fall apart and come back together, and reach compromises - but they will need to continue working together and taking these positive steps beyond the end of the book.
Mrs Narwhal’s Diary is entertaining, heart-warming and wise.