Challenges - 1930's Mini Challenge
First published by Longmans in 1938, republished by Virago Press in 2009
It is difficult to make a dull garden, but old Mr Wither had succeeded. He himself did no work in the grounds of his house near Chesterbourne in Essex, but his lack of interest in them and his dislike of spending money influenced the gardener. The result was a poorish lawn and a plaster rockery with very little in it extending as far as the eye could reach, and a lot of boring shrubs which Mr Wither liked because they filled up space and gave little trouble.
Poor, young Viola, recently widowed is forced to go and live with her in laws in a house that lacks warmth and happiness. Her father in law, Mr Withers is a tight old miser and his wife thinks Viola is far too lowly to be part of the family.
Viola arrives with nothing to look forward to until the invitations arrive for a charity ball where Viola comes face to face with Victor Spring, the local Prince Charming. Victor is quite taken by Viola, but not in the way she would like. Viola only hopes that she has finally met her very own Prince Charming.
This part of the story is very much a retelling of Cinderella. Viola comes across as the poor little girl, who gets to go to the ball and meet her Prince Charming. Unfortunately within this book, Prince Charming, is not so honourable and is more interested in a quick fling than a full blown romance. Victor Spring appears in the book as a bit of a cad, but gradually he actually fall for the charms of Viola and the book is blessed with a happy ending. Viola searched for true love and finally found it after many twists and turns.
However Viola and Victor are not the only characters searching for something within this book. The two daughters of Mr Withers are also searching. Madge is searching for companionship and finally finds it when her father allows her to have her very own book. Tina, is surprisingly also searching for love, yet she falls for the chauffeur, Saxon, who is not only from a lower class, but also a lot younger than her. Her family are appalled when they discover the affair, but eventually Tina and Saxon work their relationship out and are finally seen as acceptable by the family. I felt so sorry for Tina, as in this day and age, her relationship would be acceptable, yet in those days, she would have caused quite a scandal.
I loved this book from the very start and I have to say I enjoyed it even more than Cold Comfort Farm which I also read recently. It was a delight from the first page. As the book progresses, you witness each person blossoming like a new rosebud. As the summer progresses, they each come out into the sunlight and feel the warmth upon their skin, bringing each to a happier place. It is full of innocent romance, which is the kind of romance I like.
Viola is sweetly naive to Victor's real feelings, but she plants a seed in his heart, which just grows and grows and he eventually regrets his thoughts of a quick fling.
This book is full of love that can be found in the most unlikely places. If you loved Cold Comfort Farm, then this really is a book for you. After reading Nymeth's thoughts on this book, I did realise that the book reminded me of The Enchanted April too, which I read last year. It had the same aroma of magic in the air and Cupid watching carefully over the characters, shooting arrows this way and that to bring romance in abundance to the story.