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Laughter On The Stairs Paperback – 1955

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Product details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: J Cape (1955)
  • ASIN: B0015ZV3O6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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First Sentence
SPERO MELIORA proclaimed the stained-glass window on the stairs, in Gothic lettering against a background of raspberry Pink, and I still had enough fourth-form Latin to remember that these words meant `I hope for better things'. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Jan. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the second book in the Merry Hall trilogy by Beverley Nichols, the first of which is the eponymous Merry Hall.

I enjoyed this book much more than the first one, partly I think, because I had grown used to Beverley Nichols idiosyncratic way of writing, partly because I had grown to care for the characters he paints so vividly and it was a pleasure to be reintroduced to them. I think that Laughter on the Stairs is more amusing than the first book too. I particularly loved to read about his torture by decor thanks to the late Mr. Stebbings of Merry Hall, the stained glass window in particular springs to mind. Nichols has an ability to paint miniatures in words, snapshots of his life that are incredibly vivid and a joy to read. His voice reminds me more of a pre war era, with a little of the Mitford about him perhaps. It is perfect escapism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mrs Ann Wilson on 25 Mar. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book contained more of, and more about, the characters from Merry Hall. I would like to see a kindle copy of Merry Hall at the same price as this. After Merry Hall's walk round the garden, I enjoyed the ramble round the house named in the first book in the series. I felt as if I was meeting old friends as I read Merry Hall some years ago. It was nice to meet them again. The book was entertaining and light-hearted, just the thing for this bleak long winter we are having. Spring seemed a little nearer after reading this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is an enjoyable light read taking me back to the days of austerity in the 1950s. I like is attention to detail and the delightful people he meeys while restoring his home.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 13 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A delightful read! Mr. Nichols (in a very "proper" British fashion) describes his hilarious adventures in home decorating and remodeling. His run-ins with his snobby neighbors can not be missed! If you love gardens, cats, home decorating, or if you just love to laugh; GET THIS BOOK! In fact, get all three books in this trilogy (ie: "Merry Hall", "Sunlight on the Lawn", and "Laughter on the Stairs").
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A collectors edition, a high quality reprint. 11 Sept. 1998
By HEADSET@gte.NET - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Like a visit with an old friend, Mr. Nichols welcomes you into his home with open arms as he takes you on a tour of Merry Hall. Once again, in his own tongue-in-cheek style he describes the horrors of renovation and restoration. Friends, busybody neighbors, helpmates, and Beverley's beloved Cats 'One' and 'Four" accompany you on this delightful visit. Leaves one panting for more!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Life in the big house.... 6 Jan. 2001
By Dianne Foster - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In LAUGHTER ON THE STAIRS, Nichols continues his tale of the restoration of Merry Hall and it's grounds. Just after WWII, Nichols purchased a derelict Georgian House and it's tattered grounds, and with the help of his 'man' Gaskins, and the able Oldfield, who had worked the grounds for most of his life, he began a restoration project.
MERRY HALL was written about six years into the project, and focused on the grounds. LAUGHTER ON THE STAIRS takes place a few years, when later Nichols has turned his attention to the interior of the old Georgian House. The former owner, a Mr. Stebbing had very Victorian tastes, which Nichols dislikes, and has tried to erase. At last, he plans to address the staircase, where a stained-glass window that was "unquestionably..most alarming" overhang the landing.
Nichols nosey-parker neighbor Rose doesn't want to see the house altered. She remembers the days when Mr. Stebbing was the owner, and she does not approve of the new owner's changes. She was particularly outraged by the savage destruction of the old boxwood hedge. Now, Nichols proposes to destroy the lovely stainglass window Mr. Stebbing had installed over the staircase. Of course Merry Hall is Nichol's house and he can do what he likes, but he is concerned about the neighbors reactions to his plans. The story takes an interesting twist when burglers break in one night and in a strange way help him solve the dilemma.
This is a light and amusing book, and one I found very intertaining reading before bedtime.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Another delightful read! 2 Sept. 2006
By Deborah Maufer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the second volume in the Merry Hall trilogy, a set of books that focuses on Beverley Nichols' home life while he resides at Merry Hall, not his work life (which is presumably covered in his multi-volume autobiography). Where the first volume focused almost exclusively on the rehabilitation of the garden portion of his newly-purchased property, Laughter on the Stairs focuses on the re-doing of the house, interspersed with stories of local goings-on.

With a deft hand Mr. Nichols describes the horrible but inevitable way in which home improvement projects tend to snowball into something much bigger and more expensive than one had intended. At the same time he takes great delight in un-doing the monstrosities that the previous owner has inflicted upon the house.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to a couple of new "characters", specifically Marius' old governess Miss Mint, a very sweet and extremely timid woman who is welcomed into the local community; Erica Wyman, a famous gypsy novelist of dubious experience who is not; and Five, who arrives as a kitten and quickly settles into the Nichols' household.

Among the amusing stories that the author recounts are one that involves the sale of Miss Mint's fake Tudor cottage with a dried-up well to the odious Ms. Wyman, and the flower show, which goes horribly awry in a most satisfying manner.

Mr. Nichols is the sort of person that you'd want as a friend - he's a gentle soul who is enraptured by beauty in every form and can scarcely bear to harm a bug, but he also has a marvelously dry sense of humor and a delicious way of describing the personalities and interactions of those around him.

As a reviewer, I despair of coming up with a sufficient list of adjectives for Mr. Nichols' writings, as I intend to search out and read them all. Although that intention itself is perhaps review enough.
This made me want to start my own garden. In January. 30 Jan. 2009
By Rebecca Huston - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Last year I discovered the delights of reading Beverley Nichols' writing, based mostly around the commentary of life as lived by the British. And yesterday, in desperate need of having something to smile over, I picked up the second book in his Merry Hall trilogy, Laughter on the Stairs, and settled in as the news on the telly gave dire predictions of an oncoming storm.

One needs those little pleasures, after all.

Now that he has renovated a good deal of the Georgian house, Merry Hall, in the suburbs of London, you would think that author Beverley Nichols would find the spirit to sit back and relax for a while. But no, he's determined to continue his polishing of this Georgian mansion that has fallen on hard times.

Especially as to what to do about a monstrosity of a stained glass window. He hates it with a passion, his neighbors, Our Rose, and Miss Emily, adore it. Everyone exclaims over it, with delight or horror, depending on his or her taste. But as with life, a tragedy occurs and the window is broken, which sets off a curious sequence of events -- thieves enter through the mermaid's bottom.

Soon enough, a series of mixed blessings descend upon Merry Hall. Could it be that the ghosts of the property are making themselves known?

There is Miss Mint, a woman of uncertain age, with a gentle manner, who is one of Nichols' neighbors, who sets off a conspiracy involving a well and a piece of property. The arrival of a fellow writer in their small village, with very mixed results. Another arrival, that of a new cat -- 'Five' -- who sets off a feline showdown in the drawing room.

Along with the newcomers, there are some old favourites as well. Gaskin, Nichols' good right arm, and of course, Oldfield, are here. Miss Emily and Our Rose, two rivals and friends return as well. Marius and the somewhat sinister, all-knowing Bob are here too. And it simply would not be a Beverley Nichols' book without 'One' and 'Four.'

But what really caught me with this book is Nicols' delight and growing interest in his home. A goodly portion of the book is spent in describing various rooms of his house, and how he is polishing them up. Such as trying to fit out his drawing room with his motley collection of things that have managed to survive World War II, and realizing that they're somewhat run down. On acquiring a set of antique chairs, he makes a comment that resonated so strongly that I am going to quote it here:

If you possess even one beautiful object it teaches you more, by its constant proximity, than a hundred visits to museums.

When I got to this line, I had to stop and read it again. And realized that yes, that Nichols was absolutely right here. That craving -- and enjoyment -- of something perfect is buried in all of us, and in our age of mass-production and plasticky sameness, we tend to skip by the more prosaic and emphremal things in life, such as the work of an artist or craftsman of long ago, or the beauty that can be found in our own yards and nearby woods.

This philosophy runs through this volume. I was captivated by Nichols' description of birds in his garden, or trying to create a musical illustration of 'One's uniquely Siamese howl, or the wonders that Oldfield manages to coax out of the garden. It's that ability to stop and fully take in the moment that I envy him, and how he is able to bring his dreams and visions to life. A very few of us have that opportunity to do so, and Nichols is indulging it as far as his limits -- not to mention pocketbook -- will allow him to.

Originally published as a set of magazine articles, Nichols compiled this collection of vignettes into three autobiographical volumes. Laughter on the Stairs is the second one, with Sunlight on the Lawn being the third one -- and one that I will be adding very soon to my collection.

This new edition is published by Timber Press, Inc., and is a facsimile of the original 1955 edition, which also has wonderful black and white illustrations by William McLaren. There is a new introduction by Roy C. Dicks, and an index of all of the various plants that are mentioned in the text tucked away in the back.

While you can read this without having read the first volume of tales in Merry Hall, I do suggest to take in that book first, as there are some ideas and people that need to be introduced properly as so to fully enjoy them in this narrative.

Joyously recommended, with a very solid five star rating.
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