Wednesday, May 10, 2023

"Sarah's Cottage" by D.E. Stevenson

My D.E. Stevenson fan group's next selection under discussion is "Sarah's Cottage," a 1968 sequel to "Sarah Morris Remembers," which we read late last year (reviews here and here). 

The war (World War 2) is over, Sarah & Charles are (finally!) married, and the book opens as they arrive at their newly constructed cottage in Ryddelton, Scotland -- built on land gifted to them by Sarah's delightful grandparents (who live nearby) -- to begin their married life together. 

Things are idyllic at first -- but then reality intervenes when Charles becomes obsessed with a book he's writing, leaving Sarah feeling lonely and irritated. Later in the book, he's summoned home to Austria by his estranged family, leaving Sarah -- and us -- uneasily remembering what happened when he made a similar visit in the first book. The couple also take an interest in their neglected niece Frederica (Freddie, daughter of Sarah's extremely spoiled and self-centred sister Lottie). The book spans more than a decade, from the time Freddie is 5 until she is in her late teens.  

Sarah & Charles are a doting aunt & uncle to Freddie and, as another doting childless auntie, I was pleased to see this relationship at the core of the book.  I did wonder if/when a baby was going to show up -- and there is a passage, late in the book (Chapter 34), when Sarah, watching her husband with the boys at Freddie's 15th birthday party (after about a decade of marriage), wishes she could give Charles a son. (Not just a baby, of course, but a SON! -- this WAS, after all, 1950s Britain...!):  

"Freddie seems all right now," said Charles smiling. He added, "They're enjoying themselves, aren't they? Does it make you wish you were fifteen, Sarah?" 

"No," I said. My wish was quite different (it had struck me like a sword in my heart so that for a few moments I could scarcely breathe).  I wished -- oh, how I wished! -- that I had been able to give Charles a son.  It wasn't the first time -- nor the hundredth time -- that I had wished it. Gradually I had settled down, accepting the inevitable and teaching myself to be grateful for my blessings, which were many, but today the pain had been revived. It was seeing Charles with the boys, so good with then, so happy and popular...

After reading that, I braced myself for the inevitable "miracle baby" ending -- which (SPOILER ALERT!) -- surprisingly!! thankfully!! did NOT happen!!  

The last few chapters (and the last one in particular) seemed kind of rushed, and there were a few plot points that were left sort of dangling.  There's not much of a real plot here, but it's a pleasant read with some very nice characters (and a couple of not-so-nice ones to add a little drama now & then!). Ryddelton is the setting for several other DES novels, and there are a few crossover characters here who make an appearance -- notably, members of the Dunne family from "Celia's House" (reviewed here).  As well, Freddie goes to school at St. Elizabeth's near Larchester, where Sarah & Lottie were students, and which also figures in a couple of other DES books, most notably "Charlotte Fairlie" (reviewed here and here).   

I decided to give this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

I will count this book as a re-read when we finish our group discussion later this summer.  

This was Book #18 read to date in 2023 (and Book #1 finished in May), bringing me to 40% of my 2023 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 3 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2023 tagged as "2023 books."   

No comments:

Post a Comment