Friday, January 4, 2013
Penny Plain by O. Douglas
This unassuming book with its unassuming title has been on my Kindle for two years. The other day I opened it out of curiosity and was immediately pulled into the story.
Parentless, twenty-three year old Jean Jardine lives in a little town in Scotland and is raising her three younger brothers. They can barely make ends meet, but their home is filled with love and books. Miss Pamela Reston is a rich, bored heiress who comes to Priorsford to escape the whirl of social activities that no longer hold any interest for her.
Douglas quotes her as saying, “I am not going to face old age bolstered by bridge and cosmetics. There must be other props, and I mean to find them. I mean to possess my soul. I’m not all froth, but, if I am, Priorsford will reveal it.” (p. 15)
This is a “happily ever after story” like most light fiction of the early 20th Century, but it's above average for several reasons. The writing is good. And the characters are extremely literate (even the children!) They are always quoting Shakespeare, the Bible or some other famous tome. Everybody worth liking has a library positively bursting with books.
Wikipedia describes Douglas’ novels as “gentle domestic dramas,” yet this story is grounded in history too. Written in 1920, it addresses some of the suffering caused by World War One.
I have to agree with the reviewer over at Leaves and Pages who wrote that while the book is not earth shattering, "it is attractive in its simplicity." In the last chapter Jean tells her husband that the four nicest things in the world are “tea, a fire, a book, and a friend.” If you agree with her, you’ll enjoy this little book.
(O. Douglas was the pen-name for Scottish author Anna Buchan, sister to novelist John Buchan. Three of her novels are available for free on Kindle: The Setons, Penny Plain, and Olivia in India.)