Publication Date: March 25, 2004
This book is described as Wind in the Willows for adults (Amazon). In The Cuckoos of Batch Magna, the major landowner in the Batch Magna area of Wales dies. His lands are entitled and must pass to a distant male relative instead of his children. The American landowner inherits and promptly gives notice to his steamer boat tenants that they must move as he plans to turn the area into a kitschy resort for wealthy Americans. Led by a writer and a former military man, the motley crew of occupants takes the new landowner on with a goal of winning all or going down fighting.
Peter Maughan gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
I have never been to Wales. I have seen a number of shows and read a number of novels about the Welsh countryside. In The Cuckoos of Batch Magna, Maughan paints an eloquent word picture of the magic and beauty of Wales. I read Wind in the Willows and while it has been many years ago, the ability to paint a word picture of lush beauty is a shared quality. It’s the setting that becomes a living entity and active participant in the story adding that element that cannot help but to bring the reader into the story breathing clear air and looking over fields of green.
Maughan’s characters fit the setting — the Commander and his first mate (his wife) — the woman with too many kids to count, the writer, the family man and his wife with deep ties to the area. Most of them lean toward kitsch in a way that flirts with the line always staying on the side of appealing. Amazon lists the novel as one for fans of M.C. Beaton and I can see the comparison. Both authors feature beautiful settings with quirky characters in an extremely small-town setting where most folks go generations back. The quaint homeliness makes for a lovely read, ideal for a rainy day and hot cup of tea.
I loved this story. It was warm and fun, and the characters and setting were bright and vital. I know some readers will take some time to warm up to the story, where the writer and the family man take a walk and the family man takes the opportunity to casually rip him and live through his sexual conquests. There’s a tender moment in which the family man who worked for the dead nobleman talks about how his granddaughter gave him some of the deceased’s clothes and that the socks are like “walking on moss.” There’s a reminiscent quality in which the affection the man had for his late boss shines through with a mastery that doesn’t need a statement.
If you like shows like “Jam and Jerusalem” and “Last of the Summer Wine” (currently playing on PBS in the U.S.) or the works of M.C. Beaton, The Cuckoos of Batch Magna is for you. Pick it up and let me know what you think. Peter Maughan has a second novel out in the Batch Magna series, Sir Humphrey of Batch Hall, plus The Famous Cricket Match (The Batch Magna Novels).
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