It has come to my attention that I ought to read Eva Ibbotson. How have I not yet read Eva Ibbotson? I’ve been reading the descriptions of all her books on GoodReads and she sounds delightful, like a wonderful mixture of Diana Wynne Jones and Kate Seredy and Elizabeth von Arnim (of whom I have decided, based on the strength of The Enchanted April, that I also need to read more of).
Recently I read Fantasy Life by Kristine Kathyrn Rusch. BIG MISTAKE. Possibly I would have enjoyed it more, under other circumstances, but after gorging myself on the delightful prose of Edwardian novels and Dorothy Sayers, I found no enjoyment in reading an unevenly written and rather boring book set in the present day. There were certain interesting elements, like the descriptions of the family home of the protagonist, whose name I cannot recall. There was an intriguing closet of untold depths that was not properly explored by any of the main characters. There was the beginnings of a romance that was completely dropped half-way through, and the high point of the action was anything but.
So after I finished, I immediately picked up A Little Princess, which was a balm on my mental rugburn. I never had my own copy of A Little Princess growing up and I thrilled whenever the library’s copy was on the shelf. The best part is always when Sara wakes up in the attic and finds the fire and the kettle and the dressing-gown and the table laden with food.
I read Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons and I enjoyed it much, much more than Cold Comfort Farm, but I still am unsure if I truly like Stella Gibbons. What I am beginning to believe is that what I don’t like about her writing is that she doesn’t seem to like any of her own characters. I know she’s all about satirizationand all that, but she goes about poking fun at things I really like. Guess what, Stella Gibbons? I happen to like reading long passages of prosy-poetical nonsense about sunsets and natural beauty! And I like reading about characters dressing up and going to lovely parties, provided that something interesting happens while they are there!
I’m all about making gentle, affectionate fun of silly people and social norms, especially when the fun is being made by Jane Austen or Oliver Wilde. But Stella Gibbons’s version of poking fun just comes across to me as rather malicious. There is no doubt that Jane Austen was fond of Elizabeth Bennet. Stella Gibbons does not seem fond of Flora or Viola or Tina. But on the whole, I did like Nightingale Wood, especially the relationship that evolved between Saxon and Miss Tina.
I will give Stella Gibbons one more shot to endear herself to me. I am ordering Westwood through interlibrary loan. I am also ordering several Eva Ibbotson books, and I’m going to the Main Library to pick up copies of Mortal Love, all of the Elizabeth von Arnim novels I can find, and Kara Dalkey’s The Nightingale. I was supposed to be getting The Nighingale through PaperBackSwap, but the person who posted it ignobly canceled my request. I am reading Among the Bohemians right now, but it is not a novel and I need a novel to exist. I am reading Edgar Eager’s Magic by the Lake at home, because I cannot respectably bring it to work with me. I am saving Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel for the holidays and every time I pass it lying on the nightstand I start to pant with impatience.