Every year I do a series of Xmas entries on the blog, helped and encouraged by suggestions and recommendations from my lovely readers. If you use Pinterest you can see some of the beautiful seasonal pictures on this page, and you can find (endless!) more Xmas books via the labels at the bottom of the page.
A Winter Away by Elizabeth Fairpublished 1957
“You’ll be able to start tomorrow, I expect,” Miss Conway said suddenly.
The remark was addressed to Maud, who for a moment could not think what was to be started.
Then, with dismay, she remembered. “Perhaps not tomorrow, because it’s Boxing Day and I have to write my thank-you letters. But I shall certainly start it as soon as I can.” What else could one say? Gratitude and enthusiasm were obligatory when referring to a Yuletide gift.
“The frame is included,” Miss Conway assured her. “It’s all yours. So you’ll be able to do more tapestries when you’ve finished this one.”
Maud lived again the moment of horror that morning when she had seen the label tied to the great work and realized that Con had given it to her. “It’s a beautiful frame,” she said. “And the tapestry will look lovely when it’s finished. All the wools and everything, you know. It’s all yours.” Con settled back in her chair again, and looked as if she were going to sleep.
commentary: This is a charmer – one of the splendid mid 20th Century novels being republished by the Dean St Press in their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint. It took me a while to warm to it – at first it seemed too similar to many other books. Naïve young woman goes to live with older relations, who do hideous tapestry and thinks others will like to. It’s a cold house, there’s not quite enough to eat, she takes up a job with an eccentric older gentleman, meets various young men, has to choose between them, looks on at another young woman’s romantic entanglements, and considers cafes, tearooms and cinemas in the nearby town.
It does at times feel like a weird mashup Barbara Pym, Angela Thirkell and Stella Gibbons – but then they are all great blog favourites, so who am I to complain? There is also a vicar who has fought with his bishop over heresy – which reminds me of the vicar in Mrs Gaskell in North and South with his ‘doubts’.
The book follows her mild adventures over, as the title suggests, the autumn and winter months, and the Christmas section is highly enjoyable – much discussion of lifts to church, flowers for the altar, who will preach. And can Oliver be kept happy for the whole seasonal visit?
The plans for his entertainment included a wholly impracticable one of telling him just what she thought of him.Fair has that odd trait of sometimes working up to what might be expected to be a moment, then passing over it with just some sentences of description afterwards – the first invitation to a date, and then, actually, the date itself. But that’s not a problem, it’s just intriguing.
The young woman opening presents is from the Dutch National Archive. She obviously hasn’t yet seen the tapestry kit.