Carys Davies || The Mission House

Davies has written a novel which focusses on relationships. Or rather, on the way events determine our capability to have fulfilling relationships. Or not.

Main character Hilary Bird is an anxious person. I suspect that in real life he would have been categorized as too shy, with a touch of autism. Whatever. Hilary Bird has been afraid of life all of his life. He has only one fulfilling relationship in his life, with his sisters. A possible love thwarted by his own clumsiness. At work he could no longer cope with all the changes, new demands and loud-mouthed co-workers and visitors. He is at home, trying to get a new hold on life. It is absolutely astonishing he has chosen to go travelling, without his sister. To a country known for its abundancy of colour, noice, smells and people: India.

And no, India does not go well with Hilary. When he hears about a town in the mountains that is cool and quiet he does not hesitate to take a train and travel there. In the train he is rescues by the Padre, who offers him a room in his mission house. The Padre is a preacher who has been left kind of lost after his wife’s death. Obsessively searching a husband for his protégé Priscilla. He wants her to be well cared for when he is no longer of capable of taking care of her himself.

At arrival in the town Hilary is jumped on by taxi drivers who want to take him anywhere. He ignores the all; when he has a nasty fall later on, one of them helps him. Hilary pays back this Jamshed’s act of kindness by making him the designated driver. Jamshed brings Hilary to the places he wants to explore. A relationship develops, a meaningful one in Jamshed’s eyes.

The Mission House takes us along in Hilary’s going abouts in the quiet and peaceful town and the mission house itself. The image of a man who did not cope with demands and the increasingly hectic character of our society. Who has never learnt how to relate to other people, does not understand their behaviour. It is not surprising he overstays his welcome in the mission house. Of course he pays the Padre for his stay, still. Hilary does not seem to understand there is a limit to one’s stay.

Not that the Padre is helpful. He starts to involve Hilary more and more in the daily life at the mission house. He hopes Hilary can help him prepare Priscilla for marriage by offering her classes in English, baking and sowing. The Padre does not realise both Hilary and Priscilla have their own hopes for these classes. Hilary for one is lulled into believing he is more than welcome to stay at the mission house. Not realising he is totally misunderstanding what the Padre is aiming at.

The Mission House is a novel that focuses on small, daily things. Davies excels in describing men and their surroundings in detailed, exquisite elaborations. Her style of writing emphasizes life consisting of small, some positive some negative, occurrences. That chain of small events presents life in the mission house going on seemingly smoothly, without any hickups. Those chapters introducing Jamshed’s nephew introduce us to an unexpexted twist.

Davies has set down Hilary perfectly. I could just see the man, could understand why he is clumsy when it comes to dealing with people. The drama in his life is evident. Drama on a small, personal scale, nevertheless sad and touching. Hilary was not made for this life in this hectic society, he simply misses those qualities needed to cope with daily life. Davies treats him with respect, thereby showing that society fails when it comes to dealing with people who are less well-prepared to deal with demands and changes of modern life.

The Padre and Priscilla kind of remained clichés: the preacher who means well and does not realise what is taking place right beneath his nose, the protégé who is preparing a life of her own unnoticed by those who love her. I did not really get the relationship between Hilary and Jamshed. I just do not understand why the older taxi driver was so taken by Hilary, why their relationship grew out to be more than business. Davies failed to enlighten me.

The Mission House is a novel that calmly goes on until an unexpected twist delivers fuss and drama. I enjoyed the way Davies drew the lives and the environment of the main characters in careful detail. The drama in Hilary’s life was felt through the pages, Davies made me feel for the man en had me hoping for a good outcome.

About booksandliliane

I am an avid reader and love to share my love for literature. I have my own opinion on books that have been shortlisted, laureated by critics or are pushed on us by bookstores. I will try and explain why I like or do not like a book. Hopefully influencing you in your choice of books to read.
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