British painter Russell Sidney Reeve (1895 - 1970) source
Since I have just recently fallen under the spell of D.E. Stevenson's writing (had heard of her for years but had never succumbed before), you will have to pardon my gushing. You know how enthusiastic new converts can be.
Oh how I love this author's books and how glad I am to have found her at just the right time in my life. As I'm writing this I'm sighing with contentment. That's how Stevenson's books have affected me. Of course since I am an old Anglophile from way back when (I think it began with Agatha Christie) finding this treasure trove of books filled with gentle stories of mostly honorable but very human British people going about their business, doing their best as war raged in Europe (or just about to rage or having just finished raging) is for me an event worth celebrating. So I have, with afternoon tea as often as possible and eager trips back and forth to the library.
Dorothy Emily Stevenson (1892 - 1973) was a prolific Scottish writer whose more popular stories took place in the years before, during and after WWII (though some were set later) far as I can tell. Her Wikipedia page is bare bones though it does list all her book titles. But since I haven't read them all - yet - I'm doing a bit of surmising.
I'm reminded by Lyn that this is a D.E. Stevenson website worth perusing, especially for those of you who are new to her books - like me. Besides lots of D.E. Stevenson minutae, the site lists all the books in order and mentions which characters show up in more than one book, among many other interesting facts.
Stevenson's books feature all sorts of people not just the moneyed class, but old family money, understandably, predominates. And just as well, since in that era of tumultuous world doings, happy endings were hard to come by. But money does help settle things nicely I always think - coupled with love and in some cases heroic sacrifice - primary Stevenson people have honor above all else. The women, mostly equipped with intelligence and good basic common sense, are shown to be as strong (in their way) as the men who are often off fighting in distant (and not so distant) lands.
The extraordinary idea that houses were lived in generation after generation always intrigues someone like me who never had anything like that in her life. And there is too the added attraction of characters' lives lived in charming villages of the sort I've always dreamed about. So obviously I was ready, willing and able to fall under D.E. Stevenson's spell.
So here are a few words about the six books I've recently finished reading while I wait for the next bunch to show up at the library. I'll soon exhaust their supply, so I'll be searching online for those titles that I couldn't find otherwise. Most especially Miss Buncle's Book and Miss Buncle Marries. (I understand those were recently re-released so that shouldn't be a problem. Though I can't understand why my library doesn't have them.)
Are you familiar with the work of D.E. Stevenson? Have you read any of the following? If so, are we on a similar wavelength?
THE HOUSE ON THE CLIFF (1966) This was my first Stevenson book and thank goodness. The story of a young woman in penurious circumstances who quite suddenly inherits a distant family house (on a cliff) is just exactly what one would imagine and all the better for it. There are a few surprises but in general it's all so wonderfully familiar: a likable heroine, a worthy hero and a loathsome cad of an interloper, but everything works out properly in the end. As it should. An entertaining, heart-warming read that left me wanting to read more of Stevenson's work.
VITTORIA COTTAGE (1949) In postwar rural England, widow Caroline Dering lives in the village of Ashbridge with her two children. When the time comes, her two will fall love with the county squire's two and that seems to settle things on the domestic entanglement front until Caroline herself becomes intrigued by an enigmatic stranger recently arrived in the village. The book's quiet charm enveloped me almost at once as I was caught up in the day to day doings of Ashbridge friends and neighbors. I enjoyed it enormously. Do yourself a favor and read Lyn's (I Prefer Reading) review here.
FLETCHER'S END (1962) I fell in love with the house first of all, then with the characters. FLETCHER'S END is a sequel to another book (BEL LAMINGTON) but I've read it out of order and don't think I'll read the first one, I love this one so much. Fletcher's End is an old and decrepit house on the outskirts of a country village. The current owner, a young naval officer away on sea duty, could care less about the property and is looking for a quick sale. But with only an old caretaker (who loves the house and takes her duties seriously but is unable to do much other than clean and polish) and no real attempt to keep up the property - the garden is a jungle - the years pass and the house continues to sit empty and forlorn.
Enter Bel and Ellis Brownlee, a happy couple only recently married who are looking to settle in the country. Sigh. You can imagine. They, with the convenient help of an architect friend, will discover that Fletcher's End has fine bones and beautiful structure and, with a few adjustments, is just the perfect place for them to begin their new life together. I adored this book and plan on re-reading it forever.
SUMMERHILLS (1956) Set in Scotland, just after WWII, this book is a continuation of AMBERWELL, which I've yet to read since my library doesn't have it. At any rate, I found no difficulty jumping right into the gentle trials and tribulations of the Ayrton family. When Roger Ayrton, a widower (his wife was killed in the London Blitz) with a young son, comes home to Amberwell (another exceedingly wonderful country house) on leave from army duty he sees that his son Stephen will soon have to be sent to school. But where to send him is a problem. There is nothing close by.
Roger is a wealthy man (thanks to a huge inheritance), so he decides to build a school which will serve a necessary need, it will cater to military men and their families. Fortunately, a nearby estate is for sale, and with the help - both professional and otherwise - of friends and family, he establishes Summerhills. Another book I'll probably reread forever as well.
MRS. TIM CARRIES ON (1941) Written early in the war, this is one of a series of books based on D.E. Stevenson's own WWII diaries. Hester Christie (Mrs. Tim Christie) is the engaging wife of a British Army Officer away on duty. She, as so many wives were, is left behind to man the home-front and take care of family while their men head across the channel and beyond. The day to day, village chores and war-time deprivations are all handled (with rare exceptions) by Mrs. Tim and her neighbors with stoic charm, endurance and tenacity, a combination which helped make the Brits so heroic during 'their finest hour'. What I loved best about this book is its simple truth that life must be lived no matter what, even in war, the minutiae of the every day must still be dealt with. Another book to love and re-read as time goes by.
MRS. TIM GETS A JOB (1947) The war is over and Mrs. Tim's hubby, the Colonel, is still serving in the Army, away in Egypt this time. The children are at school and what with one thing and another, Mrs. Tim is off to Scotland, egged on by her friend Grace, to work for the eccentric Erica Clutterbuck at Tocher House, a country estate in the Highlands. There she will become cautiously involved in the lives of the house's guests and staff and be called upon to give advice and/or listen wisely to various and sundry tales of woe. Something Mrs. Tim, for whatever reason, is suitably fashioned for.
One of the main attractions of this particular book are the fine descriptions of the Scottish countryside, descriptions which entirely capture the imagination, so much so that they appeared in color in my mind's eye. I have been in Scotland and I can tell you that the author does it justice.
There are two other Mrs. Tim books and I propose to read them as I come across them.
The two paintings I've used on this post are not directly related to D.E. Stevenson in any way. They just happen to remind me of the lives of the people in her story.
Since this is Friday, don't forget to check in at Patti Abbott's blog, Pattinase, to see what other forgotten or overlooked books other bloggers are talking about today.