After enjoying 'The Making of a Marchioness' so much I wanted something else similarly enjoyable and undemanding at which point I remembered my Persephone haul from late November. It was a toss up between 'Miss Buncle Married' and 'Patience' but I picked up 'Patience' which turned out to be something of a mistake. It's a rare occurrence but sometimes a Perephone title just doesn't suit me and this was one of those times which was mildly disappointing as it's the one I'd had the highest expectations for after reading reviews like Book Snob's.
Patience is 28, the mother of 3 babies with the possibility of a 4th on the way, she's been married for 7 years, is a devout Catholic, and has never achieved any sort of sexual fulfilment - or even dreamed it was possible - until she meets Philip one night at a party. A couple of hours later morals and inhibitions are thrown to the wind as she falls into bed with him and they swear undying love. Fortunately Philip doesn't mind all Patience's babies and her existing husband is soon dealt with.
My problem was Patience, and to a lesser extent Philip, Patience seems to be utterly oblivious to everything going on around her apart from her babies. Her husband is a mystery to her, money is a mystery to her, dates aren't her strong point which is why a question mark hangs over her possible pregnancy, and her own body is clearly a mystery too. She doesn't seem to have any friends of her own, her circle consists of a divorced and re-married sister, and a brother whose wife left him for a Catholic retreat - Patience doesn't understand why. She married her husband Edward because he was a suitable suitor and she thought it would be nice to have a man to tell all ones stray thoughts too so that he might re arrange them and hand them back in good order... Luckily for Patience she's exceptionally attractive. She's also been entirely submissive in her marriage, just as her church tells her to be, which may be why her husband is keen to keep her but also perhaps why her marriage has been so unsatisfying.
Philip is another vague sort of a character who seems quite happy to shoulder the responsibility of Patience and her family after only a few hours acquaintance. Dull considerations like something to live on, or even somewhere to live don't really figure in his consideration, and Patience is so impressed by her first orgasm that she doesn't worry about these things either. In fact she seems to worry about nothing more than when she can next have Philip regardless of any consequences.
I just can't believe in Patience, and if I did I really wouldn't like her very much. I can just dimly perceive why another reader might love this book, Edward and Lionel (Patience's brother) were rather more interesting, well rounded characters. Lionel especially with his religious mania is both comic and tragic. Edward is rather easy to understand as the man who has been able to have his cake and eat it for the last 7 years. I actually found myself feeling sorry for him at the end - I'm fairly sure that wasn't intended.
It's a curious thing to find yourself really not liking a book that you feel ought to have been just your cup of tea. Other readers who I'm generally in sympathy with have found this a delightfully funny and intriguing book - I saw inconsistencies. Some of my irritation may have been down to my fraught pre Christmas mood so I have a vague intention of having another look one day (if life doesn't prove to be to short) but then again maybe not.