Miss Nona Ranskill becomes a woman overboard while reaching for her windswept hat during a cruise. Pulled ashore a desert island by another castaway from England, the pair become great companions. The Carpenter spends several years constructing a boat with nothing but a small knife and wood salvaged from the island. When he dies suddenly Miss Ranskill embarks on another adventure at sea in the new craft hoping for rescue.
Eventually spotted and picked up by the British Navy, England has become something of a foreign land with talk of ration books, coupons and black-out curtains. World War II has broken out while Nona has been marooned and everyone takes for granted that the poor woman knows what is going on.
'And now Miss Ranskill stood outside a prim house. Facing her was a most respectable-looking door and to her right was a trim patch of garden, so precise and squared, edged and tidied that she was astonished to see a row of lettuces in the narrow border beneath the window, where she was quite certain there should be lobelias.'
Due to the sorry state of her shrunken woollens, borrowed Navy shoes and apparent lack of new terminology, Miss Ranskill is thought to quite possibly be a spy. The scenario is completely unlikely but that is not the point, what is the point is that Todd has woven a tale for grown-ups so delightful you won't want to put it down. The whimsy is counterbalanced by a healthy dose of poignancy with the unknown nature of war.
'Mummy would be horrified. She'd always planned a white wedding and never in May either. But you can't wait for June in war-time when - when we may only have one week of May ever - for all our lives.'
And who could argue Miss Ranskill's logic for enjoying her butter ration all at once. The idea being that you can live with the restrictions of war for most days but then on one special day you live life as normal. While the population is complaining about shortages the goods available are enormous in comparison to those at hand on a desert island. Another observation is that the confines of society and etiquette can leave one feeling as lonely and restricted as any amount of time stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Miss Ranskill Comes Home is a delightful read and being placed on my list of favourite cosy books, which is a happy coincidence as it's the first book being reviewed here! Just the thing to brighten up your week or for between more serious books to switch gears a bit.