Skip to main content

Review: Nightingale Wood, by Stella Gibbons

Pages: 387

Original date of publication: 1938

My edition: 2010 (Penguin)

Why I decided to read: It’s my “N” title for the A to Z Challenge

How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble giftcard, April 2010

Viola is newly widowed when she’s invited by her husband’s family to come live with them in Sible Pelden. There’s Mr. Wither, who’s a fantastic bore; Mrs. Wither, who doesn’t quite care for her new daughter-in-law (due to the fact that she’s the daughter of a shop owner); and Tina and Madge, their middle-aged daughters who have never quite grown up and are waiting for something to happen to them. The story follows these characters and others over the course of a year, the highlight being a charity ball at which a local eligible bachelor named Victor Spring will be present.

One of the things that Stella Gibbons is famous for was her sense of humor, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Nightingale Wood. Stella Gibbons’s humor is a little more maniacally funny, but the characters and plot of this one never fail to be entertaining.

There’s a very surreal, Midsummer Night’s Dream-esque feeling to this book—all kinds of people slipping away to the woods to conduct love affairs, licit and otherwise. So, often, this book reads like a fairy tale—a fairy tale with a twist, especially since the two Prince Charmings in this book doesn’t always have the purest intentions…

The characterizations in this novel are especially strong. Viola isn’t quite what you’d expect from a woman who married someone twenty years older than she; but she’s all the more interesting for that because there’s so much more to her personality than meets the eye. Mr. Wither is, as described above, a frightful bore; Madge is a middle-aged woman who’s never totally grown up (as seen in her childlike delight over her new dog Polo); and Tina is a woman just dying to be loved. Well, she gets her wish, but not in the way she expected... the only character I didn’t tally love (for good and for worse) was Victor Spring, who was a bit stereotypical; and every time Saxon, the chauffer, appeared, I kept thinking of Thomas from Upstairs, Downstairs. Also, the plot moved a bit too quickly in some places. However, this is a well-written, funny novel; I actually found myself guffawing out loud in several places. This book is definitely worth a read if you enjoy this type of novel. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I haven’t read Stella Gibbons’s other, better-known book, Cold Comfort Farm; a problem that I should remedy as soon as possible.


Danielle said…
I've not read anything by Stella Gibbons yet, but I have this and Cold Comfort Farm on my pile. I've been very curious about this, but I've heard mixed things about it. It seems like a good summer read with its references to A Midsummer Nights Dream!
楊儀卉 said…
Susan said…
I have been hearing about this book recently and have decided I need to pick it up. Lovely review, I really want this now! I have to read Cold Comfort Farm too, so you're not the only one to have not read it yet.

Popular posts from this blog

2015 Reading

1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…

2016 Reading

1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
3. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
4. Liar: A Memoir, by Rob Roberge

1. The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy
2. Girl in the Woods, by Aspen Matis
3. She Left Me the Gun, by Emma Brockes
4. Because of the Lockwoods, by Dorothy Whipple
5. The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch
6. To Show and to Tell, by Philip Lopate

1. Fierce Attachments, by Vivian Gornick
2. Too Brief a Treat, by Truman Capote
3. On the Move: a Life, by Oliver Sacks
4. The Go-Between, by LP Hartley
5. The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
6. Giving Up the Ghost, by Hilary Mantel
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
8. The Great American Bus Ride, by Irma Kurtz
9. An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Radfield Jamison
10. A Widow's Story, by Joyce Carol Oates
11. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder
12. The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr
13. An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard
14. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972Originally published: 1944My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press)How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…