Monday, September 29, 2008

Guest Blog - Kate Hardy

In 1979 I picked a novel off the revolving book rack at the library. The book was Green Money written by a novelist that I had never heard of – D. E. Stevenson. When I read the first book, I did not even know whether the author was a woman or a man. Little did I know that it was the beginning of a life long romance.

Green Money was a romance with a touch of P. G. Woodhouse comedy to it. It definitely fell into the category of a mystery as Alistair Cooke defined it when speaking of Pride and Prejudice. The mystery is who will marry whom.

Since that first encounter with D.E. Stevenson, I have read everything that I could find written by her and tried to add it to my personal library. One of my favorite stories is Smoldering Fire first published in 1935. It is the story of a woman in an abusive marriage who meets the Laird in a village in Scotland and, of course, they fall in love. In 1935 a divorce was not only rarely heard of but also extremely hard to obtain. There seemed no future for their relationship.

Since 1979 I have read and reread my favorite novels. This spring I read one book and then had to find another one where the same characters were casually mentioned. That led me to read another one. Finally I decided that I really wanted to read Kate Hardy. However, I couldn’t find a copy of it anywhere. I was sure that I had read this hard to find novel by Stevenson at some point. In desperation I found a copy on Amazon and splurged.

Kate Hardy is a little different from most of Stevenson’s other novels. It takes place in post WW II Britain. Kate is a successful author who decides to buy a house in the country. In the quiet countryside, she meets two very different men. One is the largest landowner in the area with a long heritage as a gentleman. The other is a local boy who returns after six years of war a decorated hero. He no longer fits into the carpenter’s shop he worked at before the war broke out. D.E. Stevenson is very much a product of her time and class. All of her novels clearly define the differences in class. Officers and enlisted men do not socialize together. The gentry do not cross the line to marry among the workers on their land. Could Stevenson possibly do the unthinkable and have a spark of romance between Kate and the boy/man from the village?

Agatha Christie is frequently praised for her astute portrayal of British life among the upper middle and upper classes. D.E. Stevenson is an equally skilled artist in painting the England with which she was familiar. Her first novel was based upon her own journals as the wife of an officer in the English army. The four novels about Mrs. Tim Christie are among my favorites. I am an acknowledged Anglophile and highly recommend any novels by Dorothy Emily Stevenson that your library might have on its shelves. Your best chance of finding a few of her novels is among the large print library copies. Good reading.


Wanna-Be Lit said...

So, does she let the classes mix in this one?

Blogger said...

Yes, I'm also dying to know, is there romance? And did the laird and the married woman work things out?

notaconnoisseur said...

Since you will never get to read Smoldering Fire unless you borrow my copy, I will reveal the ending! The novel is very much set in another time in Scotland. The trusted "servant" of the Laird kills his Laird's enemy, but it looks like an accident on the rocky mountain side and no one knos that it is not...especially not the main characters. And totally to my surprise, Kate falls in love with the returning hero. It doesn't make it clear but it seems apparent that they would have to sell her house and move elsewhere. And of course, he goes to work for someone else who is a friend of Kate's. I like the story because it deals with the very real problems of returning vets who no longer fit into their old environment and are resented by the people who stayed at home.

notaconnoisseur said...

Please excuse the typo.