Wonderful finale to a lovely series. I’ve just re-read all five Larkin family novels back-to-back, and they are consistently lovely, a homage to rural England, great food, natural sensuality, kindness and tolerance. Pop Larkin is laid up in bed recovering from a heart attack throughout most of this book, but there is still plenty of action. (It’s rather nice to see Ma finally getting a little “variety” herself). Flowers and fruit are once again abundant throughout.
There are no real conclusions for a lot of the side characters, perhaps H E Bates planned to write more novels, and there are one or two loose ends such as Edith Pilchester’s horrid professor neighbour. But the Larkins themselves are left in a reasonably satisfying place, their home saved, and another grandchild and wedding on the way.
The timeline does seem to have jumped a little bit: in the previous novel Primrose was 14 and actively seducing the vicar, with Ma pregnant with her eighth child right at the end. In this book that child (Phyllida) is now old enough to be speaking, so it seems as though at least three or four years have passed. Yet Mr Candy “hadn’t seen Primrose for some considerable time” – he’s the local vicar – it seems rather odd that they wouldn’t have had multiple chance encounters and that their relationship wouldn’t have progressed in several years. Victoria is also at finishing school and appears to be older than the twins, whereas she’s younger than them in earlier books.
But all in all a lovely read.