The Professional Aunt

April 8, 2015

Sometimes looking through Project Gutenberg for good titles works out pretty well. The Professional Aunt is definitely a fun title, and the book comes close enough to living up to it that I can’t say for sure whether or not it does. The title character is Betty Lisle, who has:

  • 1 Unmarried brother,
  • 2 Married brothers,
  • 2 Sisters-in-law,
  • 7 Nieces and nephews, and
  • A whole host of aunts and uncles and cousins.

Her title of Professional Aunt is half a joking response to sister-in-law Zerlina’s habit of treating her like an employee, and half a way of insisting — to herself and to her family — that she considers herself on the shelf, and never expects to have children of her own. Yes, there’s a bit of a romance, but you’ll wait a while for it, and the wait is the interesting part, anyway.

Zerlina has a habit of asking Betty to stay when the children come down with measles, or inviting her over and then going out, leaving Betty to host a children’s party she didn’t know was happening. Zerlina might not be hilarious if Betty didn’t know how to stand up to her, but Betty does, and Zerlina is. And anyway, Betty’s got the other sister-in-law, Diana, to make up for her. Diana is so perfect that if we saw more of her, she’d be grating. Her children actually are grating, but they’re meant to be adorable. Betty clearly loves kids, but I enjoyed her interactions with adults more.

Anyway, Betty spends the book visiting and being visited and doing nice things for people, although she probably wouldn’t admit to that last bit. Does it count as being imposed on if you know it’s happening and you don’t mind? Betty is a likable heroine, nice, but with a sense of humor–a good character to spend an hour with, and I don’t think it would take much longer than that to read this. Gutenberg doesn’t have anything else by Mary C. E. Wemyss, but I’d happily read her again.



  1. Have you read “wild oranges”? I am reading right now!

    • I haven’t — this is the first thing of hers I’ve read — but I’ve started Prudent Priscilla now.

  2. Sounds a lovely relaxing read!

  3. Don’t you love it when books pleasantly surprise you?

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