For a long time the only book of Stella Gibbons’ that I knew was Cold Comfort Farm. I loved it but it didnt occur to me to look for more of the author’s work.
But then another work appeared. Last year the Virago Press announced that it would be reissuing Nightingale Farm as a Virago Modern Classic. It looked wonderful then and it still looks wonderful now that a copy is in my hands.
That made me wonder if maybe there were any more gems if Stella Gibbons’ backlist. So I cheched the library’s catalogue to see if there was anything in the fiction reserve, and I found The Weather at Tregulla.
I was thrilled, particularly as the name Tregulla sounded Cornish to me. That would explain why the Cornish library service decided to hang on to the book. And indeed the story is set in the fictional Cornish village of Tregulla at the end of the 1950s.
The story opens at the funeral of Evelyn Beaumont. Barnabas Trewin is home on leave and, because Evelyn was the mother of his childhood friend Una, he goes to the funeral. After the funeral Evelyn’s widower approaches Barnabas and asks him to break some news to Una. Her mother’s income died with her and the money that was to fund Una’a dream of drama school is gone.
Barnabas dreads telling Una but Captain Beaumont is so clearly distressed that he is unable to say no. Una is, of course, upset and dashes off into the countryside where she spent so many happy hours at a child. And there she finds a cottage with two new occupants – artist Terrence Willows and his sister Emmeline. Emmeline is warm and friendly to the distressed girl, but Terrence is disinterested.
Una sets her sights on Terrence, and when Emmeline and Barnabas meet they are drawn to each other. Relationships between the quartet evolve over the course of a Cornish summer.
The Weather at Tregulla started wonderfully. I recognised the characters – both the four principals and the wider village community – I liked them and I was interested to know what happened to them. Certain possibilities suggested themselves, but it was far from obvious what would happen.
And I fell in love with the place. The descriptions were simple and effective and the setting did feel like the Cornwall that I know.
A little momentum was lost as the story progressed, and the vivid descriptions that brought the opening chapters to life faded away. But there was still enough to keep the pages turning.
Things picked up again as the story drew to a close. All four principals left Tregulla. Some had happy endings, but some did not. The conclusion wasn’t at all what I expected, and I’m really not sure if I liked it or not.
Overall though I did enjoy The Weather at Tregulla. It was a lovelybook to spend some time with, but it is missing that little bit of magic that makes books like Cold Comfort Farm so special.