Original date o f publication: 1955
My edition: 1967 (Fontana Books)
Why I decided to read: I’m on a mission to read all of the DE Stevenson books I can find
How I acquired my copy: Ebay, June 2010
Amberwell is the story of a family living in Scotland in the early part of the 20th century. The Ayrtons live at Amberwell, a sprawling house built by an ancestor in the 18th century. Anne, Nell, Roger, Constance, and Thomas are different as different could be, and they all grow up to pursue their own paths. Constance opts for a traditional marriage; Anne, told that she’ll end a spinster, runs off to marry a school teacher; and in WWII, Roger becomes a soldier, while Nell surprises everyone by turning into Amberwell’s capable chatelaine.
DE Stevenson’s books should really all be back in print (though I don't know who would buy them but me!). There’s a small revival of her books going on; Miss Buncle’s Book was reprinted by Persephone (and they’re re-doing Miss Buncle Married at some point next year) and Mrs. Tim of the Regiment was reprinted by the Bloomsbury Group. DE Stevenson wrote in a very accessible way, free of dramatics or histrionics. There’s a bit of drama in this book, but it never gets to that over-the-top point. There’s emotion and pathos in the relationships that these five siblings have with each other. Anne’s situation is especially moving, since she’s forced into a marriage that she ultimately doesn’t care for. The whole family is dysfunctional but you can almost understand why they behave the way they do, even Aunt Beatrice the frustrated spinster. This is a very subtle, understated and underrated book; I wish that more of DE Stevenson’s books would be republished because she’s truly a wonderful writer (and she of her out-of-print books are going for outrageous prices on ebay or Amazon Marketplace).