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Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown

Lamb in Love

by Carrie Brown

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1448125,621 (3.65)4
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    Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (mysterymax)
  2. 00
    The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville (SylviaC)
    SylviaC: Both books are about socially awkward characters discovering each other, and both are written in unusual narrative styles.

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Vida Stephen at forty-one years of age is considered a spinster in her rural English village. She lives a simple life of being the nanny to a mute young man with mental challenges. She has cared for Manford Perry practically all his life after his mother died young and his father is often away for long periods of time, traveling overseas. Vida and Manford are all alone in the gigantic Southend House with its myriad of dusty and dim unused rooms. In truth they are all they know. The community collectively shakes its head and tsks, of the opinion Vida is wasting away caring for Manford all alone in the sad and crumbling mansion.
Then there is Norris Lamb. He thinks differently of Vida. Even though he has known her (and her situation for years) he has begun to slowly, slowly fall in love with her. Like Vida, he is single with seemingly one purpose in life, to be the village's postmaster. His world centers on stamps. They represent the wonderment of worlds untraveled. When his love for Vida takes him in new directions it is as if he doesn't recognize his old life anymore.
Vida, Manford, and Norris all go through a metamorphosis of sorts. I don't think it is a spoiler to say this changing, by the end of the story, offers hope for a new beginning for each of them.
Brown's writing had the ability to make me change my mind several times about each character. I oscillated between wanting triumph and hoping for failure and back again. As an aside, I loved the way the moon was almost another character in the book. It is not a plot spoiler to say I loved how the moon caused Vida to dance with wild abandon at the fountain and kept Norris company on his lonely walk home. Additionally, there is the fact that on July 31st of that summer a man has done the unthinkable by actually walking on the moon. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jan 13, 2019 |
"Men feel lonely when they do not do the one thing they ought to do. It is only when we fully exercise our capacities -- when we grow -- that we have roots in the world and feel at home in it." -- Eric Hoffer, "Working and Thinking on the Waterfront"

Eric Hoffer, writing in his journal in 1958, neatly summarizes the plot of Carrie Brown's novel "Lamb in Love," written 40 years later. Actually, this describes the essence of quite a number of novels: a character steps out in faith from his or her confined, routine life and discovers life at its fullest and richest. Brown's beautiful 1999 novel seems particularly to fit, however.

Middle-aged Norris Lamb leads a quiet life as a postmaster in a small English village. Never married, he collects stamps and plays the organ on Sunday mornings. That's just about it. Then one night, as it happens the same night that Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, he happens to see Vida Stephen dancing naked in a garden. He has known Vida, now in her 40s, all her life, but only now does he fall in love with her. Never having been in love before, he has no idea what he "ought to do," and so he does it all wrong. What to him seems like a bold, if anonymous, declaration of love, his own "one small step for man," would, to most other people, seem more like stalking.

As for Vida, she became a nanny for baby named Manford as a young woman. Now more than two decades later, she remains Manford's nanny, for though his body has grown into that of a man, a very large man, his brain remains that of a small child. And he has never spoken, or as much as made a sound, in his life. Manford's mother is dead, and his wealthy father is an architect who is rarely home. Even when home, he remains distant from his son. So Vida, too, is ripe for love, or for just about anything that can break her out of her routine. She has not enjoyed a holiday, or as much as a day off, since she became Manford's caregiver.

Love triangles in fiction tend to be complications, obstacles to be overcome if they don't lead to tragedy first. In Brown's hands, this unusual love triangle helps all concerned to, in Hoffer's words, "have roots in the world and feel at home in it." Manford loves Vida, but when Norris befriends him, giving him a male friend for the first time in his life, his life becomes richer and the creativity hidden inside him emerges in surprising ways. Norris loves Vida, but he probably has little chance of winning her until he also discovers his affection for Manford. Vida loves Manford, but hers is a narrow, confined life until introverted, awkward Norris opens doors for her.

In other hands, all this could easily turn into sentimental slop, but Brown manages it skillfully and artfully. "Lamb in Love" is a novel to be savored, sentence by sentence. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Oct 20, 2017 |
A slow, very gentle romance between two introverted, socially awkward, middle-aged people. I should have loved it. Instead, I only made it through the first two thirds of the book by sheer determination. By then I had picked up enough momentum to keep going. I liked the three main characters, and really cared about what would happen to them, and I loved the ending. Unfortunately, the writing style got in the way of my enjoyment. The first hurdle was the use of present tense, which always makes me too aware of the author's voice. The other problem was the almost stream-of-consciousness narrative, in third person, but switching back and forth between the thoughts of two characters, with very little dialogue. That narrative form suited the characters, who were thinkers more than doers, but came across as rather monotonous. But, as I said, I loved the ending, so I don't feel that I wasted my time. ( )
  SylviaC | Nov 24, 2015 |
This is a gentle, warming cuppa tea in book form. The characters are very well detailed, with their English eccentricities surrounded by the feel of village life. My pulse rate slowed when reading this novel, so perhaps it might be a good antidote to high-stress living. I really enjoyed this work, having gotten used to so much high-speed blah, blah, blah. This is a good volume to hold until the rains start pouring down. Then, take your tea in printed format.

Nice hardcover, too, with an excellent jacket illustration symbolizing perfectly the main character..plus the typeset is good quality.

Book Season = Year Round ( )
  Gold_Gato | Sep 16, 2013 |
writing style was more in the tell don't show mode. Not enough dialog for me. Just a lot of he did that and she did this to keep my interest.
  mcnabbp | Apr 26, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553380850, Paperback)

In the tiny English village of Hursley, two lifelong acquaintances have never given each other a second glance. Until, on the very night of man's first moon landing, a precipitous passion alights on their middle-aged existence. Out for a stroll, Norris Lamb--postmaster, stamp collector, and church organist--spies spinster Vida Stephen dancing with glorious, uncharacteristic abandon by the moonlit fountain of the mansion where she tends the mute, retarded son of an absent employer. Norris senses a buried bravado and romance, a fragility and loneliness, that match his own. And he sets out, covertly, to woo her.

But both Norris and Vida are innocents in this endeavor. His courtship blunders down many wrong turns before it finds its unlooked-for catalyst in Manford, the gentle young man who is Vida's charge...and blossoms as a force to change three lives.

In luminous prose laced with quiet humor, Lamb in Love shows how love transforms the most ordinary and imperfect mortals.

Vida, unaware that Norris is in the throes of a wild--but unvoiced--passion, must herself decide whether to remain in the small English village where she has lived her entire life, or strike out on her own in search of a grand adventure.

Watching these two people surprised by love is Manford, the young disabled man who has been in Vida's charge for the last twenty years.  Possessed of a strange and gentle intelligence, it is through Manford that Norris and Vida finally come to recognize each other and themselves. Heartwarm- ing, madcap, utterly beautiful, LAMB IN LOVE celebrates the strange and mysterious brilliance that is love.  And it confirms Carrie Brown's status as an important and luminous talent. -->

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:16 -0400)

An Englishman discovers love at the age of 51. It happens to Norris Lamb, a village postman after he sees Vida Stephen, a 41-year-old spinster, dancing naked in the moonlight. Too shy to speak to her, he writes her anonymous love letters. By the author of Rose's Garden.… (more)

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