Friday, October 8, 2010

Shoulder the Sky by D. E. Stevenson

Wikipedia describes Stevenson as “a Scottish novelist of light romances”. Since I’m not a huge fan of romance novels, I felt the description failed to give a complete picture of the author’s work. Yes, it is lighter reading than Shakespeare. But the characters and storyline are more complex than those found in your average Harlequin. Not only do the characters grow and develop, but the writing is beautiful.

Shoulder the Sky is the third book in a trilogy (but stood alone quite well) and takes place in the years just after the Second World War. During the war many children were evacuated from London and sent to other parts of Britain. Lizzie and her two children, Duggie and Greta, arrive in Scotland and make a new life for themselves. Stevenson describes them as “flotsam cast up by the storm of war.” (p.61)

Later Stevenson refers to Duggie’s insatiable appetite for books. “Duggie was eleven years old when he discovered the joys of reading. Before then he imagined that reading was an exercise performed at school – you did as little of it as you could, it was dull and troublesome – but when he started reading for pleasure it became a positive mania… Needless to say Duggie did not understand one half of what he read. He took his reading like a drug; he absorbed it as a drunkard absorbs whisky, and the everyday world became dream-like and unreal.” (p. 63)

Stevenson’s reference to my favorite book on page 184 sealed her as a new author friend. She must have liked Jane Eyre a lot because she wrote a book called Rochester’s Wife. My only regret is that for everyone to “live happily ever after” one of the book’s couples had to get a divorce. I don’t mind books whose characters make tough decisions, but somehow this left me feeling unsettled. My online search for more of Stevenson’s books shows that they are pricey – probably because they are out of print. So it was fun to find one at a library book sale for 20 cents last week. Thank you to Sarah for introducing me to this author.


Janet said...

The first book I read by Elizabeth Goudge, 'The Scent of Water,' was classed as a romance too, and I felt the same way about the label as applied to her.

Thanks for the review. This is an author I'm unfamiliar with, but that sounds like one I'd like to get acquainted with.

Laura said...

I love D.E. Stevenson's books, and they are among the few books I enjoy re-reading. Libraries are discarding constantly, and as Stevenson's books have become less popular, they're more often discarded. Keep your eyes open and you may find more!

Great review - I enjoyed it!

GretchenJoanna said...

I am always happy to hear of books set in Scotland, and this author is new to me. Thank you! I will keep my eye out for his books.

GretchenJoanna said...

oops -- *her* books.

Sarah M. said...

Yeah! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I felt similarly to your feelings when I read Rochester's Wife (re: divorce). But since then every Stevenson book I've read I've thoroughly enjoyed. They have romance, but they aren't light fluffy blah. They have plot, they have comedy, they are just refreshing to read. I am looking forward to checking out Shoulder the Sky in the future. Thanks for the review.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I'm way behind getting caught up on blogs so this is rather late.

However, a reader of my blog introduced me to Stevenson and sent me a few "extras" that she had. I particularly enjoyed Miss Buncle's Book and Miss Buncle Married.

This particular reader attends Stevenson get-togethers with the Stevenson Society (some are in Europe!).

I also started reading Elizabeth Goudge last winter and have been slowly collecting my favorites of her books.

My young friends Lanier, and Sarah Clarkson, both encouraged my Goudge reading. I will be forever grateful. :)