The lovely Rupert at Dean Street Press kindly sent me another two Furrowed Middlebrow imprint books to read and review for their upcoming release this week. I am so fortunate to be on their mailing list for advanced ebook copies (you’ll also have seen that I received five of their books for Christmas, with more requested for my birthday). Here’s the full list of what’s coming out this month, and their covers are here, and how wonderful do they all look?!

I have this one and “The Fair Miss Fortune”, which I’m currently reading and will be reviewing soon. What treats they are, gentle and kind books in the main, comforting but incredibly well-written and absorbing. I’m so glad DSP are bringing so many of Stevenson’s books back out as they’re not the easiest to find.

D. E. Stevenson – “Five Windows”

(18 November 2021)

‘Life is like looking out of a lot of different windows,’ explained Malcolm. ‘At least that’s the way I think of it. My father was a fisherman, our cottage was close on the shore, and when I was a laddie I slept with my brother in a room with a wee window that looked out over the sea. Since then there’s been a good many different windows in my life. This one has been the best, I’ve been well-contented here’.

When the shepherd Malcolm tells our young hero, David, this, he’s about to enlist and go off to the Second World War. He’s already taught him a lot, including how to make a really fine piece of work that’s worth waiting for, and there are more lessons to learn. We follow David through a fairly quiet and ordinary life – but one that’s so rich and absorbing. Moving from the manse to live with his city-dwelling uncle and go to school, David learns how lovely his parents are, and when he moves to London, he has more lessons about who to trust and who to live with – there are excellent scenes in the boarding house he initially goes to. He retains his core of decency, although knowing he’s one of life’s avoiders of conflict, which causes him some trouble. And he changes his view on the three sisters he used to play with, or rather comes to a realisation about them.

And those five windows? Well, the manse, his room at his uncle’s and the boarding house are three and the other two would offer spoilers. We move along gently through his life but oh-so-satisfyingly – I’ve realised I particularly like books that show how someone sets up home – exactly how they do it – and we get that here (it’s something I’ve found in other Dean Street Press and also Persephone books and must be a feature of mid-20th-century lit!). There are gentle lessons about friendships and I’d love to know what happens next – I wonder if any of her other books mention them (I thought it was funny there was a set of Lorimers, as DES’s great friend Molly Clavering wrote a Mrs Lorimer novel!).

The book includes a lovely autobiographical piece by D. E. Stevenson, which includes these words that really sum up her work:

Sometimes I have been accused of making my characters ‘too nice’. I have been told that my stories are ‘too pleasant’, but the fact is I write of people as I find them and am fond of my fellow human beings. Perhaps I have been fortunate but in all my wanderings i have met very few thoroughly unpleasant people, so I find it difficult to write about them.

Well, I for one love her pleasant books about nice people, and am looking forward to my second one this month!

A note of two Bookish Beck Book Serendipity moments with this one. First off, having just read Winifred Boggs’ “Sally on the Rocks” (published in 1915), I was amused to find Ned, one of the boarding house lodgers, referring to himself as being “on the rocks” in this one (published in 1953), not having knowingly encountered the phrase for a while. And in this novel, David receives a note inviting him to visit an old friend and not to bother to reply as there’s not time, but just to turn up, something that’s just happened in Richard Osman’s “The Man Who Died Twice”! (I should have saved this for that review but it’ll take ages for me to read it as I’m reading along with Matthew on audiobook). So rich in many ways!