2015: Two More Vintage British Fluff

"Most people, looking back at their childhood, see it as a misty country half forgotten or only to be remembered through an evocative sound or scent, but some episodes of those short years remain clear and brightly colored like a landscape seen through the wrong end of a telescope."

Listening Valley, D.E. Stevenson

Powering through the last of my comfort reads, here we have two more vintage British women's novels from the 20's-40's.  I know, I know, but I am expanding my horizons - I just read these so fast they tend to tip the scales a bit.  Anyway, the first is a companion, if not a sequel to Celia's House, but it is much better written.  The plot is better constructed, there are less dead ends, and the fact that it transpires during WWII gives it a little urgency that's lacking from Celia's (despite the fact that that book covers WWI, but whatever).  It's still a fluffy fairy tale, but you can almost believe in it. It's about Tonia, who was always quiet and overshadowed, until the war came.  In short order she marries, loses her husband, and becomes and independant lady, finding an inner strength she didn't know she had (while keeping her fundamental femininty, natch).  I mean, I don't want my daughter to look at this sort of stuff as aspirational life choices (no worries - she is much more likely to be a hockey player than a bit of spineless fluff if her currently personality holds), but I do like sinking into this silly books.

The Vicar of St. Mary's, Rushwater, looked anxiously through the vestry window which commanded a view of the little gate in the churchyard wall. 

Wild Strawberries, Angela Thirkell

Only in comparision to D.E. Stevenson could Angela Thirkell seem more weighty, but this one has a bit more substance.  Same general idea - here we are at a country house with a delightfully dotty aristrocratic family, and a visiting girl must decide which brother she prefers - sensible John or frivilous David.  It's, again, lighter than air, but it isn't earnest like the Stevenson. It's just meant for fun, like a Coward play or something.  And the characters, while just comic set pieces, are pretty good - particularly the matriarch, Lady Emily, who is just a messy delight.  And all ends well, and the good are rewarded, and all that jazz.  And there are some quiet poignant bits about an older son who died in WWI, which, as you know by now, hits me where I live. So, actually, it's a bit unfair to group this with the Stephenson, though they are generally the same genre of stuff.  

And Thirkell is relatively interesting - she was a cousing of Rudyard Kipling and Stanley Baldwin - I actually read a biography about the family, which was very very good (Circle of Sisters), and I've read a few of her other books (The Old Bank House- which I found really snobby at the time, but maybe I'd be more forgiving of now, and one she wrote under a pseudonym - Trooper to the Southern Cross, which was about Australian's in WWI) but she wrote a billion.  Virago just brought this one out in reprint (and another called High Rising I might seek out), so maybe we'll see more of her in the Stevenson spot on this blog. 

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017