This book was a true gift. The Camomile Lawn begins just before the outbreak of WWII. A group of cousins head down to their aunt and uncle’s house in Cornwall for the summer holidays. For Calypso, Walter, Polly, Oliver and Sophy, it is the last summer they have together before the war starts and their lives change forever.
Whilst the summer seems blissful, full of swims in the sea and sunbathing, there are hints of what is to come; lustful relationships and many an uncertainty. The novel follows the cousins through the next few years of their lives as they sign-up for action, begin jobs, get married, fall in love, and react to the ever-changing world around them.
The book is narrated from the view point of the women. Aunt Helena is disenchanted with her husband. The beautiful Calypso is determined to marry a rich man. Practical Polly goes to work for the War Office. And little Sophy is sent away to boarding school and misses her cousins terribly.
What makes this novel refreshing is the truthfulness of the characters. They don’t mope about and long for the men to come home. They live passionately, fall in love hard and do things they wouldn’t have had the courage to, had there not been a war on. There is a liberal scattering of swear words and sex throughout the novel and some rather risque issues are dealt with (which I won’t spoil for you). Altogether it is a story of how people cope and manage the task of growing up, when the world around them never stays still.