Love in the Sun – Leo Walmsley

Love in the Sun is a novel about a young couple in love, trying to make a new life for themselves far from the troubles of their past. I’ll call the narrator Leo because he is never named & the book seems to be based on the author’s own life. Leo & his girlfriend, Dain, have been living in a Yorkshire fishing village, Bramblewick. Leo’s marriage has broken down & the resulting scandal means that the lovers have to leave Bramblewick while they wait for his divorce to come through. They want to live in Cornwall & the book opens with Leo searching for a place to live on a cold Christmas Day with very little money in his pocket. He arrives in St Jude, a fishing village near Porthkerris & discovers an ex-army hut in a secluded cove. He arranges to rent it very cheaply from the local boatbuilders, the Hoskins family, & he agrees to work on the hut & the garden.

Dain soon joins him & they begin work. The hut is in terrible condition but Joe Hoskins gives them the materials they need to start work & sells them anything else they need very cheaply. Their first night is a disaster with rain coming in on them as they sleep so obviously fixing the roof becomes their top priority. One of the charms of the book is reading about how they set about making the hut into a home. Leo & Dain are resourceful & handy, able to make furniture from boxes, remove interior partitions to open up the interior & also work on the garden to provide vegetables & flowers. They rescue a kitten, thrown overboard from a container ship & name her Choo-i. They explore the coast & coves in a dilapidated boat & dream of the cruiser they will own someday & the trips they will take.

At first, they’re apprehensive about their circumstances becoming common knowledge. Leo has also left some debts behind in Bramblewick &, although he intends to pay them, he wants to be left in peace to make his new life. Dain is endlessly enthusiastic about every obstacle they encounter. She seems to be much younger than Leo, who has a more realistic idea of their predicament, although he’s not above being caught up in her enthusiasms even when they lead to near disaster. Gradually their seclusion calms their fears. They realize that they’re probably the objects of village gossip, especially when it becomes known that Leo is a writer but they ignore it. The unexpected arrival of a face from their Bramblewick past frightens them but they concentrate on their projects & plans for the future.

Leo writes his book, a novel about Bramblewick, & they wait anxiously for news from the publishers. The book is published, gets enthusiastic reviews but doesn’t sell. He writes another book about his failed invention of a lobster-pot, which never got off the ground because of the economic depression. This is also enthusiastically reviewed but is not a best seller. They make ends meet by collecting bugs for a laboratory &, when all else fails, they live on sheep’s head, the fish they catch & the vegetables & fruit they grow. In this way they can get by on very little money. They get married quietly when Leo’s divorce comes through & have a daughter, Amelia. Leo begins another book, this time a memoir of his Yorkshire childhood & they rashly buy a boat to convert into a cruiser.

Love in the Sun is a charming book with a serious undertone. Set in the 1930s, the Depression is a constant theme. The Hoskins’ boatbuilding business is at the point of collapse, they’re always laying off workers who then have to go on the dole. Leo’s lobster pot invention was another casualty of the economic situation. The resourcefulness of Leo & Dain, & the inhabitants of the Cornish villages was necessary if they were to make a living. Leo & Dain’s love & faith in the future is strong enough to keep them positive as they tackle the many obstacles they confront them. This is a simply told story that deserves to be better known. I first heard of it through reading Fleur Fisher’s enthusiastic review & it’s since been reprinted by the Leo Walmsley Society. There’s also a sequel, Paradise Creek, set some years later, which seems to be a more sober book. I’ve downloaded a sample chapter of it & I look forward to reading it soon.

4 thoughts on “Love in the Sun – Leo Walmsley

  1. It was Fleur Fisher's review of Love In The Sun which prompted me to read it – that and the realisation that Bramblewick is based on Robin Hood's Bay on the North Yorkshire coast which is one of my favourite places in the world.
    I loved LitS but wasn't so taken with Paradise Creek maybe because it is more sober and I was reading it when the first book was still fresh in my mind, but it felt a bit as though there should have been another in-between book to really continue the story as it seemed disconnected somehow.
    I have since acquired a few more of his books which are actually quite hard to find at what I regard as reasonable prices(and certainly not at the second hand book shop in RH Bay where the prices are definitely inflated) but I haven't got round to reading them yet.

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  2. Well, I haven't read my sample chapter of Paradise Creek yet, I felt I needed to have a break because I'd read that it was a sadder story. It's interesting that you say there felt like a part of the story was missing. I'd like to read more of his books & luckily the LW Society seems to be making them available as e-books which is convenient, even though I have to read them on my iPad.

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  3. I'm sorry to be so slow in commenting, but I am having problems with blogger at home and I've only just thought that things might work better on my work computer.

    I am so pleased that you enjoyed Love in the Sun. Paradise Creek is sadder at the start, but it is worth sticking with. There are two books, not set in Cornwall that fill in the missing years between the two – The Golden Waterwheel and The Happy Ending.

    All are available (or in one case on the way) from the Walmsley Society. They can be ordered direct, but I'm given to understand that the demands that the big online, sellers make to stock books are beyond their means.

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  4. Thank you for introducing me to LW, I think I'll be reading more of his books. It's interesting what you say about the online booksellers. I tried to buy the books through both Amazon & Book Depository but although they're listed, they were never available. Eventually I read LITS on my iPad. I see that Golden Waterwheel has recently been published so I look forward to reading that as well as Paradise Creek.

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