I was very lucky to have this and two other novels kindly sent to me by Dean Street Press from their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint for review. It’s part of the January issue from Dean Street Press – you can read about them all here. It’s published today! along with seven other titles, two of which I hope to review soon.

This is the first book in a trilogy (the other two are “Music in the Hills” and “Winter and Rough Weather”) and I can tell you right now that the other two are on my wishlist and will hopefully make their way to me very soon, because I can’t wait to read them.

Also see below the review for exciting Christmas Furrowed Middlebrow incomings.

D. E. Stevenson – “Vittoria Cottage”

(04 Nov 2019)

Vittoria Cottage is a medium sized house in a village where everyone knows each other’s business, which isn’t great if you’re having your engagement broken off, but is handy if you’re poorly and need some help. Caroline, a widow, lives there with her two daughters, Leda and Bobbie, yearning for her son, who is in Malaya doing post-war frightening things to do with bandits. She’s an integral part of the village and gets on very well with everyone except for her amusing arch-enemy. I love this quote, which sums up the lovely (but human) Caroline and so many of the quieter heroines in the books I love republished by Dean Street Press, Virago and Persephone:

It was important to Caroline to do things right, to do whatever she did to the best of her ability. She saw beauty in ordinary little things and took pleasure in it (and this was just as well because she had had very little pleasure in her life). She took pleasure in a well-made cake, a smoothly-ironed napkin, a pretty blouse, laundered and pressed; she liked to see the garden well dug, the rich soil brown and gravid; she loved her flowers.

Her daughters of course don’t think of her as a person, and she’s a role rather than a person in most of her activities, so it’s genuinely lovely for her when Robert Shepperton moves in at the pub and befriends her. He has a secret loss and is a decent person, too – shown by his attitude when he returns to an unsafe site in London that means a lot to him:

“You didn’t go in?” “No, I didn’t (not because I cared what happened to me but because I realised it would be a bother for the policeman; he seemed a nice young fellow).”

So of course we start to hope that they will bond and become more than friends, especially as Caroline really deserves some happiness after her misery with her very well-observed grump of a husband. Her sister Harriet, a successful actor, comes to stay after Caroline’s been to her first night in London, and as well as telling her nieces a few home truths, gets together some high jinks. There’s more to the novel than just fun and frivolity though. I found Rhoda’s claim for her art rather than love quite moving, and a scene with a young woman and her baby.

It’s a lovely satisfying book with characters to love and some twists and turns, and as I said above, I can’t wait to get hold of and read the two sequels!

And talking Furrowed Middlebrow as we are, I was in London at the weekend myself for a meetup and gift exchange with my best friend, Emma. I had requested any out of a long list of FM titles for my Christmas present, and she did me proud with the third and fourth Mrs Tim novels – hooray!

DE Stevenson Mrs Tim novels