First published in 1949, the most fascinating thing about this novel is the depiction of life in Britain just after the end of the Second World War. I don’t know how realistic it is, but certainly there was a lot of change going on in society and people were trying to get their lives back on track. I would say this book is a romance with a dash of social novel and possibly a bit of Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy parody.
The ‘matchmaker’ of the title is Alda Lucie-Browne, a mother of three daughters who is happily married to an Army Major and who goes to live in a rundown cottage in rural Sussex. Her best friend, a Bridget Jones-type character named Jean, stays with her for a bit. Alda decides that her neighbour, the handsome but gloomy and old-fashioned chicken farmer Mr Waite, would be a good match for Jean. At the same time, a Land Girl, the brash yet innocent Sylvia, is helping out on the farm of Alda’s landlord and may possibly be a match for Fabrio, an Italian prisoner of war who also works on the farm. The narrator is omniscient, however, so we’re not always following Alda, which is just as well, as she’s probably the least interesting of the characters.
Although there are some serious themes, the book is infused with a Blitz spirit and sense of hope. The narrative style is quite playful, with the author herself talking to her readers sometimes and giving us a little wisdom. In comparison to her other novels, this one is not as good as The Bachelor, is superior to My American and is a good-natured post-war version of Cold Comfort Farm. There are some outdated views of Italians and gipsies evident in the novel but these would be usual for the time.
The Vintage edition was published in 2012. This was a re-read.