Friday, January 13, 2017

Amberwell by D. E. Stevenson

Scottish author D. E. Stevenson (1892-1973) is a favorite of mine when I need literary "comfort food." But her books are almost impossible to find in libraries and are costly for Kindle. So I was thrilled to nab Amberwell when it was listed for 99 cents last week.

The novel begins with five children being brought up on the family estate of Amberwell. Their life seems idyllic. But as time goes on we see how terribly neglected they are by their parents and how hungry they all are for love. As World War II arrives, each goes their own way, some making poor choices, some suffering through no fault of their own. All of them grow. In spite of the episodes of heartache, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's been the first time in ages that I've read a book in "one gulp."

One of the themes of the book is the gardens. Each owner of the home wants to improve its grounds, but only for show. The children love the place for itself and treasure the weeds as much as the finely manicured lawns. This joy in living is coupled with another theme, the joy of serving. Those who truly love Amberwell are willing to make the sacrifices to keep it running. And they are the only truly happy ones.

Not all Stevenson books are created equal. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the Miss Buncle series, and have heard raves about the Mrs. Tim books, some of the other titles have fallen into obscurity for a reason. The Gerald and Elizabeth books were just "okay."

Amberwell is the first in the Ayrton Family trilogy. Book two is Summerhills. And the third book is called Still Glides the Stream.



Carol said...

I've only read one of her books and found it at the library! 'Sarah's Cottage.' From what I've read it isn't one of her best books but I didn't mind it. I contained a lovely prayer by John Newman which was the highlight for me:

"May he support us all the day long till the shades lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed and the fever of life is over and our work is done.
Then in his mercy may he give us a safe lodging and a holy rest and peace at the last." said...

Thanks for the recommendation. It's still a kindle deal and I just bought it!

Barbara H. said...

I have never read anything by this author. I'll keep my eyes open for her.

Vintage Reading said...

I've not read anything by DE Stevenson but I do like women's novels set in the 1930's, I'm re-reading Nancy Mitford right now. Will look out for this book.

DES4Ever said...

House of the Deer was her last book, so there were only two on Gerald and Elizabeth. How I envy you just discovering DES! Her best books begin in 1940, when she stopped writing "to please herself" with stories that are often a bit melodramatic for my tastes, and started trying to depict how the English people were dealing with the war. There are plenty of duds mixed in with the gold, but I dearly love many of the books from 1940-1966 (see Wikipedia's full list). Of all my favorite authors, D. E. Stevenson is the only one whose flaws never become tiresome.