"No one would come to live at The Eagles for fun."
The only reason Viola Withers has come to stay with her in-laws at The Eagles just outside Chesterbourne in Essex, England, is because she's recently widowed, she's penniless, and she has nowhere else to go. If only her Shakespeare-loving father were still alive, or her father-in-law weren't such a gloomy miser, or her two sisters-in-law, Madge and Tina, were closer to her own age and more lively. But everyone at The Eagles seems so old (except for Saxon, the handsome chauffeur), and nothing exciting ever happens there. Still young, and not exactly grieving for her dead husband, Viola can't stop daydreaming about someday meeting Victor Spring, their rich, attractive neighbor. But she's not in his league. She's also not the kind of girl that boys ever seem to notice. Still, a girl can dream. After all, every Cinderella should get her chance at a happy ending.
"The room seemed full of brilliant sunlight and the song of the blackbirds in the garden sounded so loud and sweet that she wanted to sing too. She was going to the Ball! and He would be there! She would wear her silver dancing shoes again and have her hair waved, and get some new pearl earrings from Woolworth's (no one would know they came from Woolworth's. Of course, you always knew when other people's ear-rings came from Woolworth's but they never guessed about yours). Perhaps he would dance with her; a waltz, slow and dreamy, or quick and exciting."
Stella Gibbons not only excels at creating endearingly eccentric characters, but at weaving together their rather unremarkable and ordinary lives into a story that is charming, witty, poignant, satiric and never dull. She referred to Nightingale Wood,
which was written in 1938, as a "Romantic Comedy" and it is, with some great slang-y dialogue and a few unexpected twists along the way. I enjoyed it almost as much as I did Cold Comfort Farm
. Gibbons doesn't take herself or her stories too seriously, which is refreshing. They're simple, fun reads from start to finish. So if you like the novels of Barbara Pym or Elizabeth Gaskell with just a hint of F. Scott Fitzgerald, I think you'll like this one, too.