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gertrude

July 2018

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Celia’s House, D E Stevenson

celia'shouse

I have an on-off relationship with D E Stevenson, liking some of her books much more than others. Over the years I’ve had plenty through my hands, usually passing them on, something I now rather regret. Celia’s House will be a keeper; I really loved it. As in Ambermere, the house (here, Dunnion), is as important as the family living in it. The story begins in 1905 with Dunnion owned by a Miss Celia Dunne and ends in 1942 with another Miss Celia Dunne living there with her father and cousin. The Celia of the title is obviously crucial to the plot, but we don’t see much of her in the book. It’s far more a family story set in the Scottish borders; the story of a marriage, of love affairs and of the neighbours.

I was struck by how much D E Stevenson had drawn on Mansfield Park. There are amateur theatricals manipulated to allow for illicit liaisons. Little cousin Deb, who gives away her heart once and forever as a child, has the Fanny role. The book was published in 1943 and when a soldier walks up to the house one day during the war, the reader is left to guess the future of Celia and Dunnion. The synopsis given on the back of my copy gives a completely false impression of the story by suggesting that it’s about the struggle between generations. All generations here get along just fine.

This post is really an excuse to reproduce the cover of the old Fontana paperback. I have three of these now. They are so much of their time (around 1970) and so completely misleading!

fletchersend

sarahmorris

Comments

I'd forgotten how dreadful Fontana covers could be. I read Mrs Tim of the Regiment recently, and enjoyed it, but I've never come across any of her other books.
I think they now have a certain period charm but they do give a false impression of what the book is like. I enjoyed the first half of Mrs Tim but found the second part too snobbish.
It is very much of its time and class though, and very funny.
I am on and off with D.E. Stevenson as well, but love Celia's House, Amberwell</> and its sequel, Summerhills.
I have Summerhills in yet another, quite different paperback format. I still haven't read it! I'll move it up the queue.
I've never read any D.E. Stevenson but those covers are certainly very colourful :)
That's one word for them!
I haven't read this book, but I do share your on and off relationship with Stevenson and your views on the Fontana covers. I first came across her when I read Amberwell. I was too young for it really, closer in age to the children who are the focus of the start of the book. I got frustrated with how things turned out for them as they grew up!
Have you tried Miss Buncle's Book?
I prefer the second in the series, Miss Buncle Married.

Celia's House

I kept quiet about my collection of DES novels for years, feeling a tad snobbish and ashamed of my liking for her. Now I'm out and proud! I have my favourites, The Four Graces being one of them, but I've realised she's a much more subtle and satisfying writer than I gave her credit for.

I know what you mean about Mrs Tim but she apparently based it on her own experiences and she was married (I think) pre WWW1 so it's very much of its time.

My other slightly shamed addiction in the form of 'light' novels are the books of Anne Hepple. They're romances but I love them because I was brought up on them!

Re: Celia's House

Age has made me less snobbish about books :-) In my teens I thought Georgette Heyer must be rubbish (I could have been judging the books by the Pan covers!) but learned better later on.

I've never read anything by Anne Hepple, must keep a look out.

(Anonymous)

As I read through my blog lists, and came upon yours, I said right out loud 'yes.' Such a relief. Such a joy to see Stevenson's name. I don't see her often in the blogging world other than the new Persephone version. I so love Celia's House.
D E Stevenson seems to be a guilty secret yet her books are still very popular.