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Nightingale Wood
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 July 2016
I found it difficult to know how this book is aimed. It is not a satire in the way of the much loved (by me) "Cold Comfort Farm" and displays little of the really original writing in that book. It seems more like a comedy of the middle classes like Nancy Mitford or Angel Thirkell would write but although it is wry and witty in places I didn't feel that it was the author's intention for it to be a comedy because it just isn't funny enough. It seems more like a novel by Evelyn Waugh but the wit is nowhere near cutting enough. Of course, the author is able to forge her own path but what she has produced seems to have some elements shown by these other writers and nothing really to separate it from them.

The story is of a middle class family, a wife, husband and two unmarried daughters in their thirties, together with their staff who live in a house near the woods of the title. In the neighbourhood are other, similar, households. The son of the family has died and his widow is left virtually penniless so she comes to live in what is an exceedingly dull house and because the son has married below him she is an ex-shop girl who doesn't really fit in. This is a gloomy and ill spirited family, Mr Withers is a domestic tyrant obsessed by money. His wife has little spirit and the two daughters are dependent, ungrateful, beaten down and unhappy. Viola is a bit dim but falls madly in love with the local rich playboy son who lives nearby.

None of the characters are really engaging and their interactions and the changes they make in their lives failed to engage me. By the end of the book life has changed for every one of them but the author does rather seem to indicate that they are not a lot happier than they were at the beginning. I was rather glad to see the back of them when I had finished for I had little sympathy for any of them.
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on 23 March 2015
Delicious update on Cinderella. Sophie Dahl's introduction warns of some very politically incorrect terminology and attitudes to be expected of its day and there are indeed some corkers but I do hate the sort of criticism that assumes every writer/artist/musician of whatever date should come fully equipped with enlightened 21 century attitudes. It's full of the sort of dry wit that is second nature to Stella Gibbons, no very unpleasant characters (even the Ugly Sisters are really awfully nice!), some very appealing ones and some lyrical pastoral descriptions. Undemanding but intelligent, a perfect escapist read.
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on 20 June 2013
I saw this one mentioned in the Daily Mail book reviews and made a note of the name, deciding to 'go for it' along with others by Stella Gibbons. Her writing is as I would wish my own to be - a dry wit, a real understanding of people and I think a real liking for them - unlike some writers who clearly feel most of us humans are 'beyond the pale' compared with their exalted selves! Put this one away to enjoy again and again!
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on 5 March 2015
This book it utterly brilliant and to my mind far superior to the better known Cold Comfort Farm. It is warm and beautifully written and although whimsical it is never irritatingly so. I adored it.
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on 8 February 2014
I've just finished this book, having stayed in bed this morning to do so. Why had I never heard of it before now? I have long loved 'Cold Comfort Farm', but think this is even better. This book is an early 20th century fairy story, twinkling with humour, and I have very much enjoyed immersing myself in the beauty and magic of the Nightingale Wood.
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on 27 August 2015
Very pleased
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on 28 June 2013
Great book, gently comic , arch and interesting, I loved it.
Recommend it to all who have read cold comfort farm
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on 8 May 2015
Good
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on 15 February 2010
This is such a fun book to read. Lightly and delicately it traces the lives and loves of Mr Withers and his family of women, the staunch if slightly bewildered Mrs Withers, his daughters Madge and Tina, each fighting approaching spinsterhood in her own way, and his daughter-in-law Viola, widowed very young and panicked by the thought of having nothing to look forward to in the years to come. The more upmarket neighbours, Victor Spring, his socially-minded mother, blue-stocking cousin Hetty and rather terrifying fiancee Phyllis also play their roles in the lives of the Withers, as does Saxon, Mr Withers' Adonis-like chauffeur. Written, I am sure, with her tongue firmly in her cheek Stella Gibbons paints a water colour picture of life in the rural Home Counties in 1937, as we would all have wished it to be.
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on 17 July 2011
I had also enjoyed 'Cold Comfort Farm' and was looking for a read equally sparkling and light. Having finished 'Nightingale Wood' hours ago I can confirm that I found it more enjoyable because it has, in addition to the fun and frolics and humour, a little more weight. The characters are all interesting, engaging and wryly observed. I wasn't totally besotted with any of them and found the still life depiction of life at the Eagles as difficult and vitality-sapping as Viola does. However there were plenty of funny observations and essentially, the story is full of happy endings. The passage, noted by another reviewer, about wild swans in the marshes, as Viola views them, really stood out to me as vivid and compelling. Many of the characters are struggling to escape the suffocating lives they have grown or found themselves in and it is compelling to find out how those escapes turn out.

For me, 'Nightingale Wood' requires a little more time and commitment than 'Cold Comfort Farm' but it is an enjoyable read and I will continue to look for more works by Stella Gibbon to read.
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