Still reading D.E. Stevenson here, though I think I'm going to take a break for awhile. I may try another older and seemingly similar author whose books I came across at the library the other day. This female author wrote from the 40s to the early 80s and was very prolific. The library had a whole shelf of these books with their vintage looking covers. Anyone want to take a guess at the author's name?
The Baker's Daughter, written in 1938, was my least favorite Stevenson book so far, so let's get it out of the way here. This is the story of Sue Pringle, daughter of the baker in a small village/town in Scotland. She is trying to get out from being underfoot at the home of her father and stepmother so takes a job as housekeeper to an artist and his outgoing wife. Sue arrives and the wife vanishes - she wants to be in London, not the wilds of Scotland! Sue gets close to the artist, people think it's not appropriate and try to encourage her to take an interest in the local young men and on and on it goes. I thought the story was a bit flat, and there were a bunch of side stories (too many) that weren't any more interesting. Next!
Listening Valley (1944)is sort of a companion book to Celia's House which I read and enjoyed. It's not a sequel, but many characters from Celia's House make an appearance here. There are many themes in Stevenson's writing and that was very apparent here. This tale begins in a similar fashion to Amberwell (1955), complete with little girls being raised by negligent parents. As in Amberwell, the more socially challenged sibling is left at home when the other marries. This is Antonia, and she becomes friendly with a much older man, older even than her father, who happens to be a wealthy business associate of her father. They marry. I'm not a big fan of this storyline, the young girl of 17 or 18 marrying the 60 something older gentleman. I find it rather creepy. Anyway, they are very happy and move to London and work in the war effort which invigorates him and makes a woman out of her. Eventually he becomes sick, passes away, Antonia moves back to Scotland to live in a house left to her by a distant relative, and she finds a more age appropriate love interest. Antonia becomes friendly with some airmen who are flying on nightly missions to Germany. There is really quite a lot of talk about the war and the reality of these missions so if you're interested in how the war was handled in a very domestic 1944 novel, this might interest you. Overall I wound up really liking this book, all the sorts of things I like about Stevenson are here.
The Blue Sapphire, written in 1963, is one of Stevenson's last 10 books. It's so interesting to see how as time passes Stevenson's writing changes and the landscape of course changes as well. This is the story of Julia Harburn, she is engaged to an overbearing man, Morland, yet somehow finds herself suddenly friends with young Stephen who has just come back from Africa bearing - guess what? - a blue sapphire. Julia wants to get out of house for just the same reasons as Sue in The Baker's Daughter. She takes a room at a boarding house and a job at a hat shop which is quite humorous. There is an interesting flirtation with the stock market here which left me wondering if someone might be evil and the obligatory flight to Scotland where Julia nurses an elderly uncle. There was a little more angst than usual here, but all ends well.
Finally, we have Fletcher's End, the sequel to Bel Lamington.
I cannot say much about this one or it might spoil Bel Lamington for you! Bel has already found her true love and she and her fiance buy a run down house called Fletcher's End and make it their own. Much of the book is about Bel's life in the country and getting the house redone. The romantic part of the story involves Bel's friend Louise. I really liked this one!
Here is a blurb from the dust jacket about the photograph above:
The picture of Fletcher's End on the jacket is an actual drawing of the house owned by the author's son in the Cotswolds, which served as an inspiration for this book.
How about that?
Several people have written and asked me what Stevenson book to start with or what my favorites have been. Of the 10 or so that I've read, my favorites are, in order:
In nonbookish news, my new PC is on the truck for delivery today! We are so excited. This computer I am on has been a lemon since day one and I'll be so glad to see the last of it. Wheee!