Wednesday 21 March 2012

Please Don't Eat The Daisies - Jean Kerr

After I read Shirley Jackson's Raising Demons, I went on a little Google spree to see what others had said about it.  Well, turns out, not an awful lot.  But I did find another name mentioned alongside hers once or twice - and that was Jean Kerr.  She might well be very famous, but I'd not heard of her before... but I was looking for more in that amusing-tales-of-wife-and-motherhood line, of which E.M. Delafield's Provincial Lady will always be the doyenne, and so read Kerr's Please Don't Eat The Daisies (1957).

It's very fun.  It isn't as good as Delafield or Jackson, in my opinion - perhaps because there is less attempt at an overall structure.  Although all three authors were initially serialised, it's most obvious with Kerr - and her book is really one-note: the exasperated wife and mother.  This sort of thing: 'You take Christopher - and you may; he's a slightly used eight-year-old.'  That is more or less what I was looking for, of course, and she is rather brilliant on that one-note - it's just not going to enter my pantheon of greats.  It was turned into a 1960 film with Doris Day, and later a TV series with Pat Crowley, although I can't imagine how.

Oh, I forgot, there was one piece which slid onto a very different topic - 'Touours tristesse' was a rather amusing pastiche of Francoise Sagan.

I'll leave you with an example.  I realise I've been very brief about Please Don't Eat The Daisies, but, to be honest, I'm pretty sure you'll know whether or not you'll want to read this based on the title and concept alone...   (Oh, and bear in mind, when you read the word 'pants', that this is an American book.)

Another distressing aspect of disciplining young children is that somehow you are always left with the flat end of the dialogue - a straight man forever.  It's not just that you feel idiotic.  The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old.  Let's say you hear a loud, horrifying crash from the bedroom, so you shout up:

"In heaven's name, what was that?"


"That awful noise."

"What noise?"

"You didn't hear that noise?"

"No.  Did you?"

"Of course I did - I just told you."

"What did it sound like?"

"Never mind what it sounded like.  Just stop it."

"Stop what?"

"Whatever you're doing."

"I'm not doing anything."

"Stop it anyway."

"I'm brushing my teeth.  Shall I stop that?"

Obviously this way madness lies.  Personally, I knew I had to win this battle of dialectics or seek psychiatric care.  I don't promise that my solution will work equally well in all cases, but it does do nicely around here.  Nowadays when I hear that crash I merely call up, clearly and firmly, "Hey you, pick up your pants."

I am, of course, operating on the absolute certainty that whoever it is will have at least one pair of pants on the floor.  And the mere motion of picking them up will distract him, temporarily at least, from whatever mayhem he was involved in.  As far as that crash is concerned, I never really wanted to know what it was.  I just wanted it to stop.


  1. I've tried to track this book down for years. (just hunting locally - haven't gotten serious enough to try the internet) It's been recommended to me many times by mothers slightly older than myself. I'll have to put it back on my "hunting list." I think I would definitely appreciate the humor. :)
    Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    1. I think it's quite easy to find on the internet - but you're right, that's nowhere near as fun as stumbling across it in a shop. I think this would definitely be even more wonderful for a mother to read.

  2. I have vague memories of reading this years ago, but only very vague ones. The fact that I can remember more about the movie than I can about the book is probably not the best sign!

    1. Ah, probably not! It is very episodic, and thus won't stick in my mind, I'm sure. Definitely not as good as Jackson's books.

  3. That dialogue rings very true. Most conversations I have with Billy go something like that.

    1. :) this would be fun to read for a mother with young children - I'm sure you'd be nodding your head a lot in recognition!

  4. It was a cute book, but I have to confess that this is one case where I enjoyed the movie more. For me, it's hard to top Doris Day!

    1. the film doesn't seem to have been released on DVD in this country... shame!

    2. Oh! But it can be bought on YouTube! I didn't realise one *could* buy things on YouTube...

  5. I am really quite fond of the movie, though not wild for the husband. I read this book back when I was just about your age. I can remember the table where I happened to be sitting.

  6. I am a Bother with two small children from dublin Ireland. This book is hilarious but I must agree the movie is fantastic, Doris Day is wonderful, it hasnt dated at all!!! Kids will be kids. Who is this Jackson person I really must read some of hers?


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