When you need a book to be a security blanket, as I did this week, you could do well to turn to the work of D E Stevenson.
This isn’t her best book; it isn’t a book that would stand up to very much scrutiny; but it is mid 20th century romantic fiction done rather well.
Katherine Wentworth was a young widow, living in Edinburgh in the most genteel kind of poverty, and bringing up a teenage stepson and two young twins. She missed her husband terribly, but she knew that he would have wanted her to carry on and to make a happy home for their family, and she knew that was the very best thing for her to do with her life.
She did well, and I found that I liked Katherine and her family – her sensible step-son, and her adorable twins – very much.
Over the course of one spring and summer a great deal happened.
Katherine met Zilla, an old school-friend. She was surprised at how delighted Zilla was to see her, as they hadn’t been close at all; and as she saw more of her she was disappointed that Zilla didn’t appreciate that lifestyle and choices that her wealth gave her, or the lovely home that she shared with her brother. That brother became a good, supportive friend to Katherine, and he clearly enjoyed visiting a family home, forming a lovely relationship with her children along the way.
When Simon, Katherine’s step-son, came home from school for the holidays received an invitation from his father’s family. Katherine was concerned, because though her husband had said little about his family she knew that he had not come from a happy home and that he had never had any thought of building bridges. She and Simom talked about that, and they decided that they would go as a family, leaving the twins with her aunt.
After what happened there, Katherine was glad that seized the chance of a family holiday, in a cottage in the Highlands. It was idyllic, her twins, Daisy and Denis, were in their element, and their mother loved seeing the enjoying themselves, as well as enjoying her own escape.
But, of course, real life – the good things and the bad things – caught up with Katherine, allowing things to be tied up nicely and the story to reach the conclusion that I had been expecting from the start.
That ending was a little rushed but it was a very good ending; a proper conclusion but plenty of potential for a sequel.
The story is predictable. I correctly predicted how each character’s storyline would play out as soon as they appeared; and I spotted so any familiar elements that appear in so many of D E Stevenson’s works.
But the emotions were real, and they rang very true. D E Stevenson was very good at emotions, and at families, and at places.
Storylines and character’s fates played out exactly as I wanted them too, but there was just enough depth to the story to make it interesting; and I have to admit that I rather like this idealised era when the war was long ago, the modern age was far ahead, and the world was so much simpler and nicer.
Some of the characterisation is less than subtle; and the parts of the story that deal with bad behaviour and mental health suggest that D E Stevenson had little experience of that side of life and didn’t do much in the way of research.
I’m inclined to think that she sailed blithely past those things because she liked Katherine and her family, and because she wanted to reached the Highland setting that she so clearly loved.
That allowed me to do just the same; and I have to say that this was a definite case of the right book at the right time.