When someone states that a book is their favorite book of all, especially when that someone is Jen Robinson, I am so gonna pick up that book. I mean, I have trouble even thinking about making a top ten list of favorite books of all. Break it down into different genres, and perhaps I could start whittling it down. Maybe. In the meantime, I truly would like to have read as many of the important-to-people, comfort-read books as I can. I like the fellow feeling it engenders. Plus, it makes me branch out and I invariably find little gems I otherwise would not have.
LISTENING VALLEY takes place in Scotland just prior to World War II. Tonia and her sister Lou grow up thick as thieves in a world apart from their extremely detached parents and the other kids in town. Tonia particularly is dreamier and more sensitive than the gregarious Lou. Whenever things become too much, she retreats to that quiet and calm place in her mind she dubs Listening Valley. There she can suss things out on her own time and make sense of them. When Lou runs off to get married at 18, Tonia is left alone, unhappy, and unsure of who she is and what she wants to be. When offered independence and the opportunity to leave her parents' home, she makes a difficult command decision and accepts an offer of marriage from a wealthy, but kindly older man. Soon Tonia finds herself in London amidst bombings and rationing and her life is suddenly filled with purpose as it had never been before. This time is not to last, however, and Tonia eventually finds herself back in Scotland attempting to refashion her life once more.
Above all, this is a sweet story about life and growing up, leaving home, and finding it again. I enjoyed watching Tonia become more at ease in her own skin over the years, so much so that she is able to not only take care of herself but others as well. These others include the funny and endearing inhabitants of Ryddelton as well as the boys of the RAF who congregate at Tonia's. Tonia herself is so very fragile in the beginning, but by the end I felt like she would be quite all right, come what may. That she was, indeed, someone who would "go out with you in any weather." That kind of transformation was gratifying to watch and the story as a whole both pleasant and touching. Thanks for the recommendation, Jen. This book is easy to love.