This is the second review copy that Rupert at Dean Street Press kindly sent me: another Furrowed Middlebrow imprint book. Here’s the full list of what’s coming out this month, with their covers shown here, and how wonderful they all look!

I recently read and reviewed “Five Windows” which was such a lovely one, this was another super treat, gentle but absorbing. This one has the same autobiographical essay in the back but be warned and DON’T READ the correspondence between the author and her publisher reproduced before the text of the novel until you’ve read the actual novel, as you will find out a major spoiler!

D. E. Stevenson – “The Fair Miss Fortune”

(18 November 2021)

‘I mean she’s my mother. She has given up everything for me.’

‘No she hasn’t,’ said Charles firmly. ‘She hasn’t given up anything for you. She’s selfish. No mother has a right to … to swallow her children whole.’

Charles and Harold, the first speaker in the quote above, were childhood friends, but Charles went off to be in the Army and Harold was kept at home by his over-protective mother, and is soft, pale and idle. When Charles comes back home on a long leave from India, it coincides with Harold and his mother having moved house to a weird modernist white cube on top of a hill, selling their old cottage to newcomer Jane, who wants to open a tea shop to attract the trade from the new bypass which has blighted it for the previous residents. Charles’ mother is kept pretty well housebound by an unspecified ailment but is careful not to lean too heavily on her son and to keep a light touch – an interesting and well-done contrast. We do sympathise with Charles as he gets to know Jane by helping her with the cottage (unfortunately, we don’t get as far as setting up the tea house so lack that delicious detail I’d have liked) but Harold seems more of a study rather than a person, though he firms up (literally) when he gets hold of some books from the rather hilarious village general store.

A confusion around a sister, some typical village events (garden parties to raise funds are discussed but not attended but there is a very satisfying golf club dance), a vicar, some elderly residents and some awful ones and a will-they-won’t-they romance – all very lovely and absorbing, with a clever, careful message about families which is often found in her works.

D. E. Stevenson had this one rejected by her publishers in the 1930s; Greyladies Books published it in 2011 after it was found by her daughter in the archives, but then it slipped out of print again, I believe – it’s so lovely to have it back, and the main plot device is a relatively common one but by no means too common and very nicely done indeed!