Our latest read, "Spring Magic,"was first published in 1942 (also the year it's set in), and was recently reissued by Dean Street Press for the first time in three decades. It's the story of 25-year-old Frances Field, who was orphaned as a child and has spent most of her sheltered life living with -- and catering to -- her demanding aunt & uncle. With the support of a sympathetic family doctor, Frances decides to take a holiday -- and chooses the scenic village of Cairn on the west coast of Scotland, simply because she saw it in a painting once. Frances's arrival in town coincides with the arrival of a batallion of soldiers, and she strikes up a friendship with three military wives -- and with a dashing young officer named Guy Tarlatan.
Overall, I enjoyed this book -- albeit with a few caveats. I enjoyed this glimpse of the home front during WWII, and the war as presented here seemed much more real & detailed to me than "Mrs. Tim Carries On." Frances is an appealing (albeit naive) character and it's fun to watch her blossom as the book progresses.
On the other hand, the marriage of supporting characters Tommy & Midge (and, in the reverse of what you might expect from their names, Tommy is the wife and Midge is the husband!), and Tommy's utter devotion to her unlikeable and undeserving husband, is somewhat disturbing. It is presented as such in the book, but by today's standards, it's absolutely shudder-worthy (although I have no doubt there are still plenty of marriages around like it). I liked Tommy, but there were times when I just wanted to shake some sense into her.
One thing that struck a chord with me: Frances is unmarried & childless (and doesn't expect that to change). And there are a few passages where (in a society that was even more pronatalist than our own today) this is played up (although -- to Stevenson's credit -- it's the maternal figures who come out looking ridiculous).
In Chapter XI, for example, Frances takes tea with one of her new friends, who has a little boy and demanding toddler girl, who dominate the visit and the conversation. Frances is not used to being around children, and I couldn't help but chuckle when I read this all-too-familiar scenario:
Mrs. Liston was so taken up with her children, smiling fondly at Dolly's antics and trying to coax Winkie to eat [ed. note: "Winkie"??!], that it was quite impossible to converse with her, and Frances could not help wondering why she had been asked to come.In Chapter XIII, Frances encounters Mrs. Liston's nanny, Miss Cole, on a train with Winkie. As they talk, she expresses her interest in taking up some sort of work after her holiday:
Miss Cole laughed... "I'm doing work of national importance already. What could be more important than looking after children and bringing them up to be useful members of society?"(She continues to expound at some length on the subject. This being 1942ish, the extremely polite & affable Frances agrees with her. Yawn...)
I gave this book three stars on Goodreads.
Here are my other posts about Stevenson & her books.
This was book #8 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 33% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)