Original date of publication: 1937
My edition: 2004 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read: Heard about it through the Persephone catalogue
How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, November 2010
One day, three tourists are given a tour of Keepsfield, a rambling, palatial estate in Scotland, and the home of the absent Lady Rose, Countess of Lochlule. The tour is given by the housekeeper, Mrs. Memmary, who tells the story of Lady Rose in snippets, from her childhood to early adulthood. This is a very sweet romance and a tale of how one woman manages to find happiness—first doing what is expected of her and then finding happiness in the most unexpected place. There’s even a fun little twist at the end of this short novel, which is both sweet and heartbreaking at the same time.
I generally love the books that Persephone have reprinted (there have bee one or two exceptions), and this is one of them, very similar to, as the Persephone website suggests, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. At times this book has a very Cinderella-esque feel to it; there’s even a fairy godmother in the guise of an elderly aunt (and, to some extent, a spinster friend of Lady Rose’s, who is absolutely miserable despite having the freedom to do whatever she wants). While she’s married to Sir Hector, Lady Rose describes herself as happy; but is she really? In a sense, this novel is about the search for happiness, and the lengths that some people will go to in order to achieve it. It helps that Lady Rose—and the present-day Helen Dacre—are both romantics; it’s through Helen that we get to see the story as it’s meant to be.