My Dear Miss Ranskill,
I am not often moved to write to a literary character, but I was so taken with your story that I felt I must.
I was, I must confess, a little surprised to first encounter a Persephone heroine digging a grave in sand, using only her hands. But as I learned more I came to understand that you were doing the right and natural thing.
How extraordinary that you were swept overboard when all you were doing was chasing your hat after it was caught by the breeze. And how lucky you were to be washed ashore. Even more so to be washed up on a shore that was already home to another castaway.
Wasn’t The Carpenter a wonderful man?! He was practical. He was optimistic, but not foolishly so. He was wise. And, most importantly, he was a good man.
I loved watching the relationship that grew between you, the way you worked together, supported each other, and always observed the proprieties. It is said that a crisis can bring out the best in people, and it certainly did in both of you.I felt your heart breaking when he died, and you had to dig him that grave. Thank goodness you managed to finish the boat you had worked so hard to build, that you were able to sail away, and that a British naval vessel picked you up just in time.
But how England had changed in the four years you were away. You returned in 1943 to a country at war. A country where you couldn’t buy clothes without coupons you knew nothing of. A country where travel was not so easy as it had been when you left. And even if you had been able to travel you wouldn’t have been able to go home, as it had been taken over by the military.
England couldn’t understand what had happened to you, and you couldn’t understand what had happened to England.
Your entirely proper relationship with The Carpenter was misunderstood, but I was so pleased that you could still feel his support, draw on his wisdom. And that you took such trouble to see his widow, to try to tell his family of the great love he had expressed for them.
You coped with everything wonderfully, and I am so pleased that, in the end, you found a new place in the world. And that it was just the right place for you.
Reading your story gave me a new perspective on the war, and it said so much about the human spirit and about what makes a true English lady. Not tradition and etiquette, but acting for good and standing up for what is right. Understanding what is important, and what is not.
Miss Ranskill, you are the very best kind of English lady!
Barbara Euphan Todd has done a magnificent job recording your story. She has made it so readable, and she has drawn out the emotions, the pathos, the humour, the absurdity quite beautifully.
And, of course, it has been quite beautifully presented by Persephone Books.
A great compliment, and you are more than worthy.
With kind regards,