I bought my copy of “The Little Ottleys”, a set of charming books published between 1908 and 1916, in December 2018 after I’d bought Ali at Heaven-Ali a copy for her LibraryThing Virago Group not-so-secret Santa that year and decided I had to have a copy too.  She saw it on my TBR photo some time earlier this year and asked if I fancied reading it together. Especially as we’re onl 3.5 miles apart but could be a world apart at the moment, that felt like a lovely idea, so we’ve been doing just that over the last few weeks. We both read “Love’s Shadow” at a similar point in 2017 and she didn’t need to re-read it; however, I did, as it was the first book I read after I’d had an operation in that year, and the general anaesthetic must have wiped it from my mind as I had not a clue or recollection about it! So I read all three and she skimmed the first one and read the other two and it was lovely to think of her reading away at the same edition of the same book.

Ada Leverson – “Love’s Shadow”

(28 December 2018)

The pretty and delightful Edith Ottley suffers her pretty awful bore of a husband, Bruce (he is amusing, but his chief characteristic is described as being envy, which is not an attractive way to be). He is a hypochondriac who constantly misinterprets what she says and countermands his own instructions, and lacks a sense of humour, but there is amusement in how she manages him. Epigrams like Oscar Wilde’s litter the text – and that would probably be because Leverson was a friend of Wilde’s, and she has the same line in exquisite comedy. Hyacinth and her companion, the peculiar, mackintosh-clad Anne Yeo are the stars of the plot here; Anne is, like Ann Perronet in Murdoch’s “An Unofficial Rose” the backbone of the household: “It was like talking to a chair” could be said of either of them. There’s a complicated plot involving romantic swaps and marital misunderstandings, along with that great stalwart, the putting-on of a play.

Ada Leverson – “Tenterhooks”

We’ve lost Hyacinth and there’s not even a mention of her and her family, but gained Edith’s rather marvellous confidant, Vincy. But we also meet the handsome, kind and rich (if a bit entitled) Aylmer Ross, who falls in love with Edith. I was a bit shocked, as I’d expected to run along with the marital conflict but not have an actual threat to the marriage. But when Bruce turns out to have a couple of understandings and entanglements with young ladies, Edith flights bravely for her marriage and looks set to sacrifice her own feelings. The children, Archie and Dilly, provide comic relief, but it’s a darker book than the first because of the real peril the marriage faces.

Like Vince in “Does it Show” by Paul Magrs, Edith likes to have plain walls and not too much fussy decoration about the place. Another one for Bookish Beck!

Ada Leverson – “Love at Second Sight”

Published in 1916 (and thus doing that rare thing of filling in a year in my Century of Reading which yes, I am still adding to, sloooowwwwwllly), the war looms over this one as you’d expect. Bruce is shown up for the coward he is, on top of all his other faults, and the peculiar Madam Frabelle inexplicably comes to stay. Where is Vincy when you need him to sort things out when Aylmer Ross is also back – from France and wounded. Will Edith respond to his constancy in this new time of war? Well, “It doesn’t seem to matter now so much” (p. 492) gives us a clue. There’s humour to the last, when Bruce is more concerned about the state of his inkstand than the state of his marriage. We’re willing Edith to get happiness and fulfilment in her life after managing Bruce so beautifully for so long.

A lovely escapist series which you could plunge into, forgetting what was going on elsewhere. Ali has been reading them, too, and here’s her review.

Tomorrow I will share a lovely book I’ve read to review for Shiny New Books and two incomings I couldn’t somehow resist clicking on. Then I’ll be reviewing “Howl’s Moving Castle” on Thursday – how are people getting on with that?