This debut novel was published in 2014, but I did not hear of it until this year on a friend’s blog. The cover suggests, “[It]…will leave you undone, open to the beauty of the little things in life.” Those are strong claims for such a calm, comforting little read, but the novel itself is as “prim and proper” as the protagonist herself. It is a gentle story, sometimes sparked by the tiny rebellions and pop-up anger in our protagonist, Miss Prim, a librarian by occupation, and a thinker/philosopher by her own definition.
Prudencia Prim is intelligent, has a true knowledge of literature, and is hired as the private librarian of The Man in the Wing Chair. She arrives at the tiny, quaint village of San Ireneo de Arnois where she meets the village’s eccentric, quirky, well-drawn characters, whom you can’t help falling in love with. It is a village /colony set in the past, hidden from such horrors as progress and modernism. Its “exiles seek a simple, rural life” as they strive to protect themselves from the outside world. Poets, artists, philosophers, philanthropists, etc. make up the post persons, teachers, priests and a monk, the inhabitants of the village.
The plot/action of the novel is full of “steaming cups of tea, baked cakes, and lovely company.” Hospitality is the name of the game in San Ireneo de Arnois. Reading this novel, returning to it after stressful, busy days was a comfort to me during the bleak month of January. I found myself rationing out the chapters I covered each time I opened the book to make it last longer. I especially enjoyed the feelings of peace and serenity it left me with. It made my heart sing and left me with a peace that comes from a book that feels like a conversation with an old friend. This was definitely a “darned good read.”