Margaret Kennedy Day: Lucy Carmichael

For this year’s Margaret Kennedy Day, hosted by Jane at Beyond Eden Rock, I decided to read Lucy Carmichael, Kennedy’s tenth novel, published in 1951. With so many of her books still unread to choose from – I’ve previously read only The Constant Nymph and Troy Chimneys – I had no real reason for picking this one over the others, but it’s one of Jane’s favourites so I hoped I had made a good choice!

Lucy Carmichael, as you would expect, follows the story of Lucy Carmichael who, as the novel opens, is preparing for her wedding to Patrick Reilly. It should be one of the happiest days of Lucy’s life, but instead it is one of the worst: Patrick doesn’t turn up, the wedding doesn’t take place and Lucy is left devastated. As she tries to come to terms with what has happened, she decides that if she is to move on with her life she needs to get away and start again in a place where nobody knows about her past. And so she jumps at the chance to take a new job at an arts institute in another town, which sounds like just the sort of change she needs.

Settling into her new home and new job in Ravonsbridge, Lucy makes new friends, forms new relationships and becomes a valued member of the community. Eventually she will even have the chance to love again, although it will take her a while to get to that point as she now has different priorities and more experience, and wants to get things right this time. Apart from the drama of the opening scenes this is not a very dramatic story, but there is still a lot going on in Lucy’s life and I won’t delve into the plot in any more detail as I wouldn’t want to spoil any little surprises for future readers.

Margaret Kennedy shows a lot of understanding and sympathy for Lucy’s situation; being jilted at the altar is, thankfully, not something I have experienced myself but if it did happen I hope that I would have the strength to react the way Lucy does, with dignity and resilience, rather than allowing her heartbreak and humiliation to destroy the rest of her life. Lucy is also lucky that she has a close and loyal friend – Melissa – who keeps in touch with her after she leaves home, and although the story of their friendship is told mainly in the form of letters, it was one of my favourite aspects of the book.

But although I did enjoy this book – very much so – I couldn’t quite love it. I thought the story lost its way a little bit during the second half of the book and while Lucy’s work in the community was still interesting to read about, I wasn’t as absorbed as I was at the beginning. Last year for Margaret Kennedy Day I read Troy Chimneys, which turned out to be one of my books of the year; of all Kennedy’s novels, I suspect that was the perfect one for me and that I can’t expect the others to satisfy all of my personal reading tastes in quite the same way. Still, it was lovely to meet and get to know Lucy!

Have you read Lucy Carmichael or anything else by Margaret Kennedy? Are you taking part in this year’s Margaret Kennedy Day?

16 thoughts on “Margaret Kennedy Day: Lucy Carmichael

    • Helen says:

      And thank you for organising it again. 🙂 I forgot to mention the Austen influence in my review, but I did notice it and loved it too.

  1. heavenali says:

    This is going on my list of Margaret Kennedy books I want to read despite your very slight reservations. I read The Forgotten Smile buy haven’t got around to reviewing it yet.

    • Helen says:

      I think you would like this one, so I’m glad it’s going on your list. I’ll look forward to your review of The Forgotten Smile. 🙂

  2. cirtnecce says:

    I loved Lucy Carmichael! It was my first Margaret Kennedy and I read it as part of Jane’s event two years ago and since then I have been devoted to Kennedy! I loved the way she went about picking the pieces and new relationships she formed. I loved her interactions with Michelle and the other host of characters! It was this book that got me reading all other Kennedys including The Red Sky in the Morning, The Wild Swans and my personal all time favorite The Feast!

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad you loved this one. I think I’ll have to make The Feast the next Margaret Kennedy I read – it seems to be a lot of people’s favourite.

  3. Simon T says:

    So interesting to read your review, Helen – we come to similar conclusions while highlighting different things! I must seek out Troy Chimneys, I can see.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, my thoughts on this book seem to be quite similar to yours, although we each picked up on different things. Troy Chimneys is great – and very different from this one.

  4. piningforthewest says:

    I read The Forgotten Smile and enjoyed it, although my review of it makes it seem a bit grim, it has humorous moments.

    • Helen says:

      The Forgotten Smile could be one to consider for the next Margaret Kennedy Day – unless I decide I can’t wait that long, of course.

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