Miss Ranskill Comes Home is a book that could have gone a lot of different directions. Miss Ranskill is lost at sea on a pleasure cruise in 1939. She winds up on a deserted island being cared for by a working class carpenter who is also stranded on the island. The book begins four years into Miss Ranskill’s ordeal and we find her digging a grave for the recently departed carpenter. Not long after this opening scene she is rescued by a British convoy headed back to England. While convalescing on a destroyer Miss Ranskill learns that England has been at war for four years but nothing she learns on board prepares her for what she will encounter when she gets back to England. She comes back to a country deep into the deprivations of war. She is confused by rationing, almost mistaken for a spy, and unable to find her place in the new world order.
I kind of wanted this novel to be gut-wrenchingly sad. There were certainly moments when it could have been but I found them soon and often interrupted with moments of levity. I didn’t mind the levity and found the book overall to be enjoyable and heart-warming. But there was a part of me that wanted it to be the serious tragedy it could have been. Four years living with a man and they not only never, ahem, got busy, but they didn’t even call each other by their christian names. The confusion when she first returns to England could have ended up with Miss Ranskill in prison as a spy or in an asylum. Her money, inherited by her sister who thought her long dead could have been gone. I should say that not all in this novel was humorous. The book does indeed touch on some of the tragedy of the story and the special perspective Miss Ranskill has on life and class and what’s important.
There was one section of the book when I thought I was going to be unhappy with my reading experience. When she first gets back to England and ends up at the front door of her school friend’s house in ill fitting clothes and no shoes and yet her friend doesn’t slow down enough to find out what happened to her. And worse, Miss Ranskill doesn’t say “Hey! I have been stranded on an island for four years and I am in crisis!” I know that it is stupid of me to ask for such plot-killing clarity. But that kind of confusion reminds me of all those bad, mad-cap sitcoms of my childhood where all the kerfuffle could have been avoided if only someone had spoken up before things got out of hand. Thankfully that kind of craziness didn’t go much beyond that early scene in Miss Ranskill.
Definitely an enjoyable Persephone with a unique plot.