Love in the Sun by Leo Walmsley

I picked up Love in the Sun purely by chance, as I browsed local fiction in the library. I am so, so glad that I did. it is a gem.

The first clue was Daphne Du Maurier’s introduction:

“”‘Love in the Sun’ will make other writers feel ashamed. And, curiously enough, old-fashioned too. It is a revelation in the art of writing and may be one of the pioneers in a new renaissance which shall and must take place in our time if the novel is to survive at all. While we struggle to produce our complicated plots, all sex and psychology, fondly imagining we are drawing modern life while really we are as démodé as jazz and mah jong, Leo Walmsley gives the reader a true story, classic in its simplicity, of a man and a girl who possessed nothing in life but love for each other and faith in the future, and because of these things, were courageous and happy…”

How could I not bring it home after reading that?!

The story is indeed simple.

A man and a woman from Yorkshire are in love, and they run away to Cornwall. Life had become complicated, and they just want to build a life together and be happy.

“We were in love and we knew what we wanted. To have a little house close to the sea, a garden, a boat…”

They lease an old army hut – previously only used as temporary shelter – for their home. They create a garden and grow vegetables; they catch fish too; they collect driftwood to burn for fuel, and so they survive and build that life. So that he can write his novel and she can have their baby.

Yes, it really is that simple. But it works beautifully, because it is honest and true.

There are little incidents, and many ups and downs, along the way. A roof that cannot keep out the Cornish rain. A kitten rescued. A boat lost to strong tides. Desperate attempts to avoid a familiar face from home. An unexpected friendship. A failed attempt to sell surplus produce. All things that you can imagine the couple recalling fondly in later life.

A baby arrives, and so does a book. There are dark shadows: the man struggles to come to terms with the time and attention that the woman must give to the child, and with the pressure to produce a second book after the first is published.

But all of that falls away when the couple’s future is threatened. Their love comes to the fore, and with a little luck they will pull through.

It is impossible not to care: the man and the woman are utterly real, and every detail rings true.

We make life complicated, when it could be so simple.

Love in the Sun is simply lovely.

“”Yes,” she cried. “Yes, I’m certian of it. Everybody will want to read it. Everybody will want to buy it. How could people not help  liking it? It’s so real. There’s nothing dull about it… It’s a grand book.”

“God!” I cried. “You’re right. It ought to go. It ought to sell in thousands.”

Words from Love in the Sun, but they could equally well be said about this sadly out of print novel. I plan to email the Leo Walmsley Society, and I’ll see where that takes me.

22 responses

  1. What a WONDERFUL premise for a book! I love it- so elegant and simple 🙂 You could write it up for one of my With Reverent Hands posts!

    I am reading a book that sounds similar to me, by Angela Thirkell. She seems to be very well-known in circles that don’t include me, but I hope to find more of her work if I can. I’m reading High Rising and it’s just so lovely and fun and witty 🙂

    • Aarti, I’m spoiled or choice for With Reverent Hands. I’m drawn toward this but Margery Sharp is also calling. And I’m thinking about the pros and cons of on out of print book. I’ll be in touch.

      I’ve never read Angela Thirkell, but I’ve heard great things and I really must.

  2. I want this book so much – who could resist a book set in Cornwall with an introduction by DDM? It sounds fantastic – thanks for bringing it to my attention, and here’s hoping I can get a copy on Amazon once Lent is over…

    • Verity, you are going to love this book. There do seem to be copies about – it was in print as recently as the 1980s – so I shall look forward to your reaction.

    • Isn’t it lovely?! Leo Walmsley had a fairly high profile in his day, so maybe you will find a library copy somewhere. Strangely, I bought an out of print Monica Dickens book club edition a few days ago and he was one of their other authors, listed on the dust jacket…

    • Leo Walmsley was a popular author in his day, but maybe one that libraries away rom the ares where he lived and work didn’t feel the need to hang on to when he fell out of fashion. I’m lucky then that he lived not so many miles away from where I am now.

    • I do think you’d like this. As Tracy says below, simple and lovely. Leo Walmsley does seem to have had a fair degree of popularity, so hopeully there should be a few copies around. And I can think of a few lists it would slot into nicely…

    • By all accounts Leo Walmsley’s books were semi autobiographical. Certainly this book had an emotional honesty that made it timeless.

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