Friday, March 17, 2017

What I Read in January 2016 Part III

What I Read in January 2016 Part III . . . 

The House on the Cliff by D.E. Stevenson--Historical Fiction/Historical Romance

The House on the Cliff Elfrida Jane Ware is a not-so-great actress with a hopeless crush on the leading man when she discovers that the grandmother she never knew has left her a house! Many years ago, Elfrida's mother Marjorie ran off with Elfrida's father much to the anger and dismay of her family, cutting them off for the rest of her life. Now all the family has passed on and only Elfrida is left. Elfrida has never had a place to call home, living her life in the theater and is delighted at the prospect of owning Mountain Cross. Her lawyer, Mr. Sandford, urges her to sell the crumbling old place because the land left can't support the entire farm. Mr. Sandford's junior partner and nephew Ronald Leighton provides such a beautiful picture of the old home in Devonshire that Elfrida is enchanted. When her landlady, Mrs. Martineau, learns of Elfrida's crush on Glen Siddons, she knows it is hopeless and urges Elfrida to go and live at Mountain Cross. Elfrida falls in love with the old place immediately and with the darling caretakers, Emma Chowne, a talkative but motherly woman and her silent husband who knew Elfrida's mother. Though shy, Elfrida finds the neighbors friendly and begins to work on her farm. Three potential love interests are introduced and one prevails at the end as Elfrida grows and learns to know herself better.

This is a very pleasant book much like Stevenson's other novels. This one is very similar to Listening Valley and features a cameo by Miss Martineau of The Blue Sapphire. I gave this book to my grandmother to read and she felt it was too slow and didn't want to continue. I encouraged her to read on, knowing that Stevenson's books always start slow. She ended up enjoying the book and remembering a trip she took with my grandfather. I didn't find it that slow to start. I got into it pretty quickly, wondering who her love interest was going to be. I enjoyed the descriptions of country life and instead of the usual gentry, here the characters are farmers. Elfrida must work her own land because there's no money. She has an arrangement with the Chownes to help out but she does a lot for herself. I liked the farming aspect. It added some humor to the story. There's also a little bit of color color. The romance kept me guessing but I did guess the key to the story right away. There isn't much plot in terms of an exciting story here. It's more about Elfrida's internal growth and a female coming-of-age story. The plot left me wanting a sequel.

I found Elfrida a little too good to be true but liked her anyway. I wanted her to succeed and I wanted her to be happy. I wasn't entirely thrilled with the romance angle though. Two of her three potential love interests seemed nice enough but only with one did she really connect. I was hoping for a little more conflict than there was.I did like Elfrida's growth and she experiences a lot in only a short time. The Chownes are very memorable secondary characters. They're quite opposites but suit each other very well. Emma is very dear and funny and Chowne reminded me of Matthew in Anne of Green Gables. The neighbors are not all that memorable. I had trouble remembering who they were. The most memorable secondary characters were Glen Siddons and Patrick. I have opinions about Glen I can't share without spoiling but I felt the same way about him that Elfrida did. Patrick is such a dear, charming boy. I felt sorry for him for his terrible childhood. I think he deserves a book of his own to show how he develops.

If you like Stevenson's other books or the Thrush Green series or Village School series by Miss Reed you will enjoy this book too.

The Other Side of the DaleThe Other Side of the Dale by Gervase Phinn--Non-Fiction/Memoir

This book is Gervase Phinn's memoir about his time as a School Inspector for English in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1980s. I had this book on my wish list for awhile. By the time it arrived I had forgotten why I wanted to read it. I was expecting a charming time gone by fiction story like Miss Reed's Village School series. I found this story very slow going. Some of the anecdotes about the children are very funny and some of the local color is interesting, but mostly I found this book boring. I was surprised that the children he encountered are my own generation and there are brief mentions of computers. Mostly the schools are very old-fashioned though. Most of what Phinn does didn't interest me much except that he and his colleagues had some good ideas about education and I wondered what they have to say about Common Core. My grandmother enjoyed this book more than I did. It's going back on paperbackswap so I can get something a little more old-fashioned and interesting.

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