Vittoria Cottage by D E Stevenson was the one I liked least. I found the middle-aged, widowed heroine irritating and could hardly believe that two sisters would fall in love with the same man and each be prepared to give him up for the sake of the other. In spite of this, the cosy style and domestic detail made the book enjoyable.
Doris Langley Moore is a new author to me and I had no idea what to expect. The book is set post-war, when life was becoming difficult for a woman like Elinor MacFarren, who has a lovely house to keep up. The house was inherited from her brother and is full of treasures, as well as her own scholarly botanical work and exquisite prints. As she doesn’t want to sell up, she decides to let half the house. Mrs Bankes is recommended by a friend and at first seems the perfect tenant. She *adores* everything and promises that she and her husband (currently away) lead a very quiet life. Hah! All lies. In no time poor Elinor finds the house full of Mrs Bankes’s noisy friends, precious items damaged and her tenant cheerfully lying about everything. Elinor decides the woman is really just a spoiled child but begins plotting how to get her out of the house, in which she now feels ‘not at home’. The writing is very skilful; there is really only the one plot yet Langley Moore keeps your interest to the end.
Now for my favourite and, I really think, the best. I’ve been reading Miss Read for years but found this book different from the Fairacre and Thrush Green novels and also, better. Anna, a country girl, has finished her teacher training and starts her first job at a large junior school in a bleak suburb. I was impressed by how realistic it is. Ideas gleaned from the keen lecturers at the college, with their modern theories, go out of the window as Anna finds herself with a class of nearly fifty children and a terrible noise both inside and outside the school. I’m sure that when she was training, she never imagined herself having to shout, ‘Be quiet!’ at the top of her voice. Nor could she have allowed for her depressing surroundings, miserable digs and the difficulty of getting any work done. In spite of constant tiredness, she manages to cope and to get fond of some of her charges but only weekends home on the farm keep her sane. She survives her probationary year and there is a hint of romance for the future. This book really deserves to be better known.
The other new Furrowed Middlebrow titles are:
Music in the Hills and Winter and Rough Weather by D E Stevenson. Together with Vittoria Cottage, these form The Dering trilogy.
By Doris Langley Moore: A Game of Snakes and Ladders, All Done by Kindness and My Caravaggio Style.