Saturday, April 28, 2012

Notes to my mother-in-law by Phyllida Law



26. Notes to my mother-in-law
by Phyllida Law
nonfiction, 2009
third book for the Dewey Decimal Challenge 2012
finished 4/28/12

I think that Phyllida Law is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. And some of that beauty comes from an ever-present twinkle in those blue eyes. 



In this book, the twinkle comes through in her words as well.

Phyllida Law's mother-in-law lived with her and her husband, Eric Thompson and their two daughters, Emma and Sophie, for seventeen years. Because she was deaf, what Gran called in that terrific Cockney rhyming slang - 'Mutt and Jeff,' Phyllida wrote notes to her.
… aware at last that she was becoming increasingly isolated, I began to write out the day's gossip at the kitchen table, putting my notes by her bed before I went to mine.
One night my husband wandered off to his, muttering darkly that I spent so much time each evening writing to Gran that I could have written a book - 'And illustrated it!' he shouted from the stairs.
Here it is.
And what a gem it is. It is funny and warm and paints a picture of English life in the late sixties and early seventies. We go to the shops, we meet the neighbors, we hear of the ailments, and learn the family stories. And we see the particularly funny way that the author looks at the world, and laughs at herself.
It seems there is a new deaf-aid on the market. I keep seeing it. It's like an Alice band so you wear it on your head with these wee muff things that sit on your ears. Very practical. You'd be surprised how many young people are wearing them. You are not alone. I shall do a bit of research and report back, because I think they might be the very thing.
… I told Dad [her husband] about the new deaf-aid on the market and he tells me it's a thing called a Walkman which plays music into your ears. He and the girls were hysterical. Trust me to get it wrong!
To me, this is hilarious. As is:
No, darling. I don't think there is any question of your having a cataract. I think that some of those library books have very small print…
Writing of the neighbor, Mrs Venning:
She says Syd has a very sweet tooth. He gave her 50p to go to Alexis for a piece of cheesecake and two Bath buns for his lunch. Well, my dear, she only got a small piece of cheesecake for the money. 'Where are the buns?' cried Syd.
'He lives in the past,' says Mrs V.
The illustrations are also humorous and delightful. The story that goes along with this one


is about how one floats in salty water. 
I couldn't get my bottom under the water. Dad [her husband] said it looked as if I was being followed by a baby elephant. Or a small island.
When Gran has her final illness at the end, you would never know there was any serious trouble from the cheery, normal, one-sided conversation Phyllida keeps up in her notes.
Great excitement at home. Your room looks gorgeous already.
There is a dear afterward by both granddaughters about their beloved Gran.

In the course of this book, we learn that Phyllida Law is as beautiful inside as outside. Her kindness, her wit, her joy in living comes through in each word she writes to her mother-in-law. This is just so wonderful. I had a smile on my face for the entire book.

34 comments:

  1. Well, Nan, that's two from you in the same day. I KNOW I would love this one.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Two days. :<) I finished and had to write about it right afterwards. You will love it. Perfectly wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  3. How do you find these gems???!!! Loved your thoughts on this one.

    P.S. I will be getting back to your email. I've been off the computer for the past few days so I need to catch up!

    ReplyDelete
  4. She is beautiful which goes a long way in explaining why her daughter (Emma) is so gorgeous. I am putting this title on my wishlist for mother's day. Your description alone is so touching, I can't imagine how wonderful the book will be. I think what is most touching is that she saw the isolation and did something about it instead of doing nothing or worse yet contributing to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is such a special little book. She was wonderful to her mother-in-law.

      Delete
  5. Sounds like a joy to read! I will look for it! Oh and I love Daisy!,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is indeed a joy, and Daisy thanks you! She turns 30 in June. :<)

      Delete
  6. What a great review! I'll have to find the book right away. I watch for Emma in films, and there is a movie with Emma and Phyllida - very good, but my mind is a blank as to the title!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Winter Guest! I love that movie!! And they are both in Peter's Friends, another one I love.

      Delete
  7. This is my kind of book! Thanks so much for the review! I love Emma Thompson, she is beautiful and intelligent and she and I share a birthday. (Well, of course we would.) Yes, this book by her mother is just my cup of tea!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am fond of both mother and daughter. I haven't happened to see any of the films Sophie has been in.

      Delete
    2. Sophie has been in several things but the main thing I remember her in is that she was Phil Mitchell's girlfriend in the British soap, "Eastenders". She played a nutcase, I'm afraid, but she was good at the role!
      (I don't watch soaps, other than this English one!)

      Delete
    3. I have always wanted to see Eastenders but haven't.

      Delete
  8. What kindness on her part. I don't think I've seen consideration like this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And done with such warmth and humor and real joy!

      Delete
  9. Yet another one for my ever-growing list of books I want to read - and shall, especially if they are available on kindle!

    ReplyDelete
  10. As Kay has said, this sounds like my kind of book, and what a wonderful way to include a deaf person in family life and make them aware they are loved and wanted, even though they miss out on the daily chit-chat, the banter and the jokes, and the conversation. I hope her M-I-L enjoyed the daily bulletins on family life.
    By the way, Sophie may not be as big a 'name' as Emma, but she is an excellent actress with a solid body of work behind her - she was in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and has done lots of TV and stage productions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Their mother is the big 'name' in my life! :<) Did you happen to see Kingdom with Stephen Fry. He played just the dearest soul in that, and Phyllida Law had a lovely role.

      Delete
  11. I always knew that Phyllida Law was a wonderful actress, but it appears she, like her famouse daughter, is multi-talented. This sounds like a very sweet tribute to her mother in law. Thanks for this great review.

    Also, I believe Sophie Thompson was in Gosford Park.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't seen GP for ages. I should watch it again. I have loved Phyllida Law in so many movies.

      Delete
  12. How lovely to see something positive about a mother-in-law for once. I'm a MIL twice over and would like to think that both my girls are fond of me. They seem to be anyway:) I must admit that I don't know of Phyllida Law but she sounds a really nice person to do that for her MIL. My mum was very deaf towards the end of her life and I often used to converse with her by writing things down which she read and then replied to. A slow but effective way to deal with a difficult situation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure they are both exceedingly fond of you! If you go here:

      http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0492373/

      there is a list of the tv and movies that Phyllida Law has done.

      And how nice that you did this very thing with your mother.

      Delete
  13. Sounds wonderful - I must reserve it at the library very soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a wonderful, funny, and moving book.

      Delete
  14. I didn't realise that Phyllida Law is from the UK - I assumed she was American. I recognized a great many of the series etc that she was in but I've watched very few of them and never picked up on her name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know if you read all the comments above, but if not, I loved her especially in Kingdom. Have you seen it? She plays Stephen Fry's aunt.

      In the afterward to this book, Emma Thompson says how much the young Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie loved her Gran, and her rock cakes. :<)

      Delete
  15. This sounds like a delightful book, Nan. You always find such gems!

    I was lucky enough to have two mothers-in-law, both of whom I adored. I need to get a copy of this book. It sounds quite humorous (and touching). The story about the Walkman had me laughing out loud. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is both humorous and touching. There is a bit of the feeling of Diary of a Provincial Lady - the wit, the humor.

      Delete
  16. I read this when it was published and loved it! The letters were turned into a book for Emma's 50th birthday.
    She was writing a new book about caring for her mother Annie that is supposed to be published this year...this one for Sophie.
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't know this - thanks so much. Such a wonderful little book.

      Delete
  17. That is a beautiful face. I'm not usually interested in books written by people in the showbiz, but this sounds really cool, especially in the time-capsule aspect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She is such a down-to-earth person. I think you'll love this.

      Delete

Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations.
Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.