Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Celia's House (Book Review)

Title: Celia’s House
Author: D. E. Stevenson
Publication: 1943, original hardcover; Sourcebooks paperback, 2015
Genre: Light romantic fiction
Plot: In 1905, elderly Celia Dunne decides to leave Dunnian, her lovely home in Scotland, to her great-nephew Humphrey, with the understanding that his family can live there while he is away with the Navy. She assures him that his as-yet unborn daughter Celia will one day inherit Dunnian, and she dies soon afterwards. Once settled in their new home, Humphrey’s children love Dunnian as much as Celia did, particularly the eldest son Mark and a young cousin Deb, whose friendship with Mark influences her fondness for the house and helps her become part of the family. The story follows Mark and his siblings through WWI and to 1942, and sure enough, his youngest sister is another quirky Celia, named for her great-great aunt. The book does not contain much in the way of plot other than a competition for Mark’s affection but it is an extremely pleasant family story.

Audience: Stevenson has a devoted following and fans are delighted to see some of her books back in print. Similar authors include Elizabeth Cadell, Angela Thirkell, and Rosamunde Pilcher.

What I liked: This is a little different from other Stevenson novels: very focused on the family and house and less humorous than her other books (although it begins with an amusing interaction between Celia and her gardener), but appealing in a different way. I liked the descriptions of all the Dunnes and their gossipy neighbors, and I especially enjoyed the scene where Humphrey’s arrogant cousin Maurice learns Humphrey has inherited Dunnian instead of him. There are some allusions to more serious topics: an elderly retainer with nowhere else to go (luckily, she is needed and welcomed by Humphrey and his family), Deb is neglected by her own mother until her cousin Humphrey takes her into his own family, and Humphrey’s beloved wife becomes confused and frail before her time.

Source: I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I really enjoyed this reread and am so glad that Sourcebooks brought it back with delightful artwork and packaging.  
Here's another favorite back in print!

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