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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

on 27 September 2015
lovely read of a well loved author which will be read again in the future.
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on 9 February 2017
Love d e stevenson makes you feel good
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on 23 February 2014
The lack of a 4th or 5th star isn't because of its lack of heft, since I enjoy an easy read, and nor is it because romance is not my 'slumming' genre of choice. The writing style is clear and fluent and I would have liked this more if I could suspend my disbelief in the main premise: Garth Wisdon returns from WWI as heir to Hinkleton Manor, where he unceremoniously dumps his childhood sweetheart Charlotte Dean and marries her sister Kitty. Heartbroken Charlotte moves to London and lives a drab life as a hermit-spinster working in a library and living in a cramped flat until Kitty turns up with marriage troubles and, following a scandalous divorce, Charlotte returns to Hinkleton to look after Clementina, Garth and Kitty's troubled daughter. The absent Kitty has meanwhile died and Garth has gone exploring in the wilds in order to feel better about things, but then he disappears, and his diaries are sent back for Charlotte to read and edit for publication....

The problem is that, if Charlotte's reminiscences are to be trusted, then both her and Garth seem to have undergone a complete change of character between adolescence and young adulthood. I think we are meant to trust Charlotte because there is no hint whatsoever of her being an unreliable narrator in any way, and it's a pretty straightforward narrative. We are expected to believe that feisty young Charlotte, adventurous where Garth was always stuck in a book, and fond of a hard day's hunting, is going to accept rejection from her soul mate without asking why, and retire to life in a reference library? She may have been a parson's daughter and a gentlewoman, but she wasn't a doormat!

We are also expected to believe that Garth, who is always described as noble, straight, direct etc. etc. would reject his soul mate on the grounds of second-hand tales of her infidelity, without asking for her version of events? Fans of the book will no doubt argue that Garth was affected by the war and too much of a gentleman to put anything directly to Charlotte. Well maybe, but then as a noble, honourable etc. etc. wouldn't he just have left well alone rather than being sarcastic and cruel and ultimately marrying her sister in what must at least subconsciously have been an act of revenge?

It felt to me like the sloppy writing in soaps where characters withhold information on the flimsiest of pretexts, in order to create tension and further the plot, in a situation where in reality someone would just ask what was going on and push for an explanation. As with soaps, it's obvious from fairly early on what has really happened and where the whole thing is heading. While it's more enjoyable than an episode of (insert soap of choice), it's also a bit of a children's story. Charlotte talks in her imagination to a woman whom she met only once, but felt an affinity with, and the same woman turns up for real at Hinkleton, which stretches credulity too far. Then there are the rather flat characterisations; Garth and 'Char' are firmly Team White, while Kitty is entirely Team Black. Team Grey is nowhere, and the lack of any such nuances diminished it for me.

If Evelyn Waugh is too dark or 'real' for you, then you'll probably enjoy this. Readers seem to think the Buncle books are a better example of Stevenson's work, and I haven't read those, but while this wasn't bad enough to put me off the author, I think I'll read another Thirkell or Webb in preference.
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on 19 March 2014
I read some of D.E. Stevenson books years ago so when I saw this I thought I would buy it. One thing, though is it is published
in the States so consequently the spelling jars somewhat. However, apart from that the story is delightful and if you are a
D.E. Stevenson fan you will love it. It was worth the wait. I see that the American publisher is bringing out another of her
books soon too but it would be nice if one here could do it so we could have the right spelling! But maybe that is me just
being pernickety. I do have the Miss Buncle books published by Persephone though.
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on 1 July 2013
A good, old fashioned romance, nicely plotted and smartly executed. It was published in the thirties and as I would love to think that my grandmother, then the young mother of three children, read this book. She loved a good romance, and she would have so enjoyed meeting Miss Charlotte Dean and learning her story.

Charlotte was an impoverished gentlewoman, living a solitary life in a small London flat, working in a small private library and losing herself in her books. And she was at a turning point in her life. She had been asked to do something, something that she knew she ought to do, but something that she didn't want to do, something that she knew would cause her heartache. She decided to write, addressing an imaginary friend, in the hope that the act of writing would lead her to a firm decision.

She wrote the story of her life.

Charlotte was a vicar's daughter, and she had grown up in a lovely country parish. She had an idyllic childhood, and it was illuminated by her friendship with Garth, the son and heir of the manor. It was a friendship that grew into love. But then the Great War came: Garth went and Charlotte stayed. He survived, but when he came home something quite inexplicable happened. Garth married someone else. Charlotte's younger sister, Kitty.

Charlotte was bewildered she was heartbroken, and so was I. she had pulled me right into her story, and my heart rose and fell with hers, I saw the world as she did.

When her beloved parents died Charlotte decided that she had to move away, that she couldn't bear to watch her sister living the life that she had thought would be hers, with the man she still loved. And once she had left she stayed away, because she knew that the pain of going back would be too great. She visited just once, because she knew that she couldn't refuse the invitation to be the godmother of her niece, Clementina.

It was the collapse of Kitty and Garth's marriage that inspired Charlotte to begin to write to her imaginary friend. Kitty pulled her in, but she didn't tell her everything. I'd love to explain exactly what happened, but I mustn't because you need to experience it first hand, as I did alongside Charlotte.

When the dust had settled, and when she finished telling her story to her imaginary friend, Charlotte accepted that she that she had to go home, that she had to help raise Clementina.

It wasn't easy. She had to manage the house and the staff. She had to build a relationship with a reserved, troubled child. And she had to deal with neighbours shocked at what had happened at the manor. No it wasn't easy but Charlotte had a good heart, a wise head, and she had been raised by good people with Christian values. It wasn't plain sailing, not by any means, but I think it's fair to say that Charlotte succeeded.

Then she had to become the keeper of the flame, and it seemed her future was settled. She had found her place in the world, and her role in life.

But there was a final twist in the tail - the ending was absolutely perfect!

I was so sorry to have to say goodbye to Charlotte and her world, after being caught up in her life and her world from start to finish. That points to very clever writing and plotting. Charlotte's world, the people in it, all of the things she lived through were painted richly and beautifully. Her story lived and breathed.

There were a few little niggles, but nothing really jarred. Except the imaginary friend - she was given rather too much substance and it really didn't work; I do wish she had remained completely imaginary.

But this isn't a book I can analyse and pick apart, because I responded to it with my heart and not my head. It came along just when I needed it, and it was a very fine romance ...

I'm so glad that The Young Clementina is coming back into print, and I hope that more of D E Stevenson's books are following along behind.
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