Books

Seagulls in the Attic – Tessa Hainsworth

Seagulls in the Attic is the follow up to Tessa Hainsworth’s  first novel Up with Larks, which sees her settle into life in Cornwall as a postie after giving up a high powered job and moving herself and her family to live in what she sees as a dream place.

Tessa has been here a year now, and has become part of the furniture. Locals, incomers and second-homers all know her and she is developing her round into a community service more than delivering mail. Whilst delivering the post, she is delivering newspapers for folk who cannot get to a local shop because of transport links as well as no local shop! News on those who are ill, recovering, births, deaths and marriages. Produce of all descriptions, vegetables, cakes, pies and jams are bartered around for varying favours every day it seems to me.  I would like to hear Royal Mail’s take on this, are they aware that their vehicles are being used as such or do they turn a blind eye, to the valuable service they are unknowingly providing. Tessa becomes part of this when she takes up her own allotment and starts to grow everything and anything she can get her hands on. But she is still a new comer to these parts and the locals like nothing better than seeing what mishap befalls her next. Quicker than the post it is around all the local villages and hamlets.

In this volume, Tessa’s previous London life seems to start seeping through. Trying to be efficient and making life easier for some, in turn makes life very difficult for the majority of others.  Tessa is still slow to accept that change is not always a good thing and takes a long time to be even thought about before put into action into any of the surrounding villages.

This book is full of quirky stories about the locals, the difficulties that Tessa has trying to juggle her family, her work and all her blossoming interests including all the pets gathered along the way. Google is by far a strong character in more ways than one. But this book is full of wonderfully descriptive passages about the scenery, the smells, the weather, the tranquillity that Tessa has found being a “postie”.  There is an almost poetic taint to many paragraphs… “I wake up on the morning….looking out over a golden landscape. The sun is shining on the yellow beech leaves making them glow like jewels, turning the other leaves coppery, read and a deep bronze colour. Slanting sun beans dice through the fluffy clouds…”

My only concern having now read this, is whether there is more material for a third book? It would be a great shame for subsequent books to be rather weak with story but just churned out for the sake of selling an idyll in Cornwall. Sometimes I think it is better to go out on a high and perhaps develop new directions if wanting to continue as an author. It is like taking a holiday without even going anywhere and that is the strength in Tessa’s writing. If you cannot get to Cornwall this year then perhaps have a taster from this book and the previous one.

I enjoyed this book, despite never having been to Cornwall. It was just so descriptive and I learnt so much, especially about foraging for food! It is amazing what you can make out of supposed weeds and the like growing on the hedgerows. I think I will stick to Blackberry picking.

Tessa Hainsworth’s first book was one of the first that I posted on this blog here little did I know that 9 months later I would be still posting and reading the sequel as well! 

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5 thoughts on “Seagulls in the Attic – Tessa Hainsworth

  1. Another one to look out for! It sounds very much like rural life in the Highlands. The post office even have wee van/buses there as there is no public transport in most places.
    Cornwall is another idyllic destination for lots of folk and I got there about 12 years ago after waiting about 30 odd years. It’s lovely but sadly I think it has been changed by so many holiday home people and teenage booze-ups in places.
    Anyway, it sounds like a good holiday or comfort read.

  2. I loved this, and Tessa’s previous book, but as you say, is there sufficient material for a third book in this style? I would think so, because places and situations change all the time. Have you read the Minack Chronicles by the late Derek Tangye? Derek and his wife Jeannie did in the 1950s what Tessa and her husband have done in the 2010s. Derek was in MI5 and Jeannie a Press Officer for the Savoy group of hotels, and they decided that the high life wasn’t for them, so they upped sticks and with their cat, Monty, moved to west Cornwall to a cottage on a cliff. Their next door neighbour – although this wasn’t menitoned at the time – was David Cornwell, better known as John le Carre. The plan was for Derek and Jeannie to grow daffodils and sell them to the Covent Garden Market and also grow tomatoes and potatoes … the books are about the ups and downs of rural life in the 1950s/1960s/1970s and if you have enjoyed the books of Tessa Hainsworth, I think you might enjoy these, too. Anyway, Derek wrote 19 books about their life in Cornwall; therefore, perhaps for Tessa there are still more books just waiting to be written?

    1. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

      I have added these books to my list to read, thank you for the recommendation. I have remembered some other ones that I enjoyed a few years ago of a similar ilk, but I cannot remember the name!

      Hope to see you on my blog often.

  3. Hi, Jo,
    Some detective fiction set in west Cornwall is a series by the late Janie Bolitho, and they feature a photographer/artist who lives in the Newlyn/Penzance area and I would certainly recommend them (I’ve read her stand-alone crime fiction, but prefer this series.) I think the first is Snapped in Cornwall and then there is Framed in Cornwall and there are several of these to enjoy. They are the ‘cosy’ genre of detective fiction, I would say, similar in some ways to the Sheila Malory novels by Hazel Holt.
    I would also recommend Emma Smith’s The Great Western Beach which is her childhood memoir set in north Cornwall. A delight from beginning to end.
    By the way, I live in south Devon so I’ve no hidden agenda regarding recommending Cornwall-set books!
    I’ve already mentioned Hazel Holt but if you’ve not read her, and if you like cosy-crime, then she’s the one for you. Her books are set in and around the coast of north Devon and Exmoor; indeed the ‘Taviscombe’ in her novels is actually Minehead. (Hazel was a friend and colleage of the late Barbara Pym and with Hilary Pym, wrote a biography/memoir of Barbara.)
    Hope you are having a good Easter and yes, I will look in again.
    Margaret

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