The Tall Stranger by D.E. Stevenson ~ 1957. This edition: Ace, 1978. Paperback. ISBN: 0-441-79621-4. 252 pages. (Note: This is not the cover of the paperback, but of the original hardcover dustjacket. The Ace paperback illustration is quite a different thing! I will spare you it.)
My rating: 8/10.
Yes, it’s a very high rating for what is basically a “fluff” book, but it was what I needed last night, after a very trying day (condensed version – an unexpected visit to the vet with our 13-year-old dog and $2000 in emergency surgery fees, prognosis a guarded “fair”, upgraded to “good” when it was apparent that she handled the surgery very well indeed, all things considered) and it (the story) made me forget our combined woes for a bit, and made me happy. Maybe I should even put it up a point or two more for that!
Postscript – the dog is back home and looking most happy to be here; though rather sore and stiff after her internal surgery. Feeling optimistic this morning that all will be well with her for at least the near future, because, realistically, at 13, the inevitable final parting is not all that far away. This is the dreadful bit about sharing your home and heart with pets…
This is one of D.E. Stevenson’s minor romantic novels which doesn’t get much press – I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about it at all. And probably for good reason – it’s a slight little thing, and the characters are nothing if not “stock”. But I loved it!
So here we have two roommates in a London flat. Barbara – Barbie – works for an interior decorating firm, while Nell is a secretary to a doctor. As the story opens, Barbie is in hospital with a mysterious virus, exceedingly ill. To cut a long story short, she recovers, due to timely intervention by Nell’s employer, and the loving care of Barbie’s Aunt Amalie and her companion-housekeeper Miss Penney.
Now toss in a charming but shifty love interest for Barbie, Aunt Amalie’s handsome stepson Edward, and a mysterious “tall stranger” met briefly at a crowded wedding. Relocate the action to a rather shabby castle on the Scottish border, garnish with a lovable child (and one not quite so immediately lovable), various charming clients-cum-friends, a basket of kittens, a dramatic storm and a rescue from an island, another love interest for Nell (looks aren’t everything in a man, you know), and there you go. One trials-and-tribulations-overcome-with-a-very-happy-ending double (quadruple?) romance.
Not very realistic, but lovely to escape into. Nicely done, Dorothy Emily!
I promised myself I’d just post and run with this one, because it’s really not the material for any sort of deep analysis, but I feel like sharing this snippet from midway through, because of course spring is, by the calendar at least, here; my life (and nursery greenhouse) is full of plants and my mind is full of gardening plans, and I too have a fondness for, but, sadly, no luck with, the lovely willow gentian.
The garden was now at its best; wistaria rioted over the south wall, its branches bowed down with their weight of blossom, and the willow-gentian in its cool shady spot was beginning to come into flower. Soon the little bushes with their slender stems would bear narrow bells of deep blue flowers, and the corner of the garden where they grew would look like a pool of blue water. Amalie was very fond of these gentians, she had grown them herself from a few seeds gathered on a visit to Switzerland. She had been told that they would not grow here in the Cotswolds but they had liked their new home and had thriven and multiplied under her care.
Amalie was in no hurry for them to flower. She would have held back the garden if she could … for, as each plant flowered and faded, she knew that it was gone for a whole year. The longest day was long past … Next year was such a long time to wait … all through the dead winter. Summer days passed too quickly, thought Amalie, and then she thought, but there are still the chrysanthemums to come and the dahlias and the proud upstanding gladioli and the gold of the ripe corn in the garvest fields and the flames ofthe autumn leaves!
The years do pass so swiftly, as do the days of the garden and the moments of each flower’s particular glory, but (apt thought with Easter coming and all) there is at least the eternal resurrection of plant life each year to look forward to. For every thing there is a season, if you’ll forgive the overused but most appropriate quotation, though (increasingly, it seems with the passing years) the season in question is often too brief. Would I freeze time if I could? Perhaps occasionally…
I’m going to my sister’s 50th birthday party today, so please forgive my rather angsty ramblings. Half a century. No matter how casual we are about joking that 50 is the new 40, it’s a slightly sobering milestone!