Nightingale Wood

Nightingale Wood

by Stella Gibbons

There's Mr Wither, a tyrannical old miser, Mrs Wither, who thinks Viola is just a common shop girl, and two unlovely sisters-in-law, one of whom is in love with the chauffeur.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.67
  • Pages: 387
  • Publish Date: April 2nd 2009 by Virago
  • Isbn10: 1844085724
  • Isbn13: 9781844085729

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I loved Cold Comfort Farm, Gibbons' debut novel (the film is also wonderful, if you haven't seen it), so I was excited to hear about this book - I never thought to look into it but Gibbons wrote quite a few novels in her day; this is her ninth. Victor is just as flawed as everyone else - you won't find a single character in Nightingale Wood who comes across as completely sympathetic; at the very least, they're depicted as a bit of a twit. I half expected Victor's cousin Hetty, who scorns their flashy lifestyle and grand house with a snobbery equal to theirs, and reads a lot of poetry and other "deep" works, to be a sensible, even wise character: but no, she's held up as being just as foolish as anyone else. Perhaps because all their flaws and vanities are held up for our laughing scrutiny, they all end up being sympathetic characters, in their way. They're also very familiar characters: we may think we've come a long way but seriously, I think it's fair to say that there are plenty of Viola's, Tina's, Mr Withers, Victor's, Phyllis's and Hetty's around today. I could quote lots of passages, there's some wonderful insightful lines here and yet more wit, but you'd be better off reading the book yourself and getting the proper context.

like jane austen with icky people. i'd like to listen to this again sometime--Gibbons' social critique is sharp and often very funny, and she has clear respect for her readers.

Two families, separated by a woodland where The Hermit, the town drunk and squatter lives, come together in unlikely ways when Viola, the Withers' widowed daughter-in-law, arrives and chaos starts brewing.

Viola Thompson is a shop girl with no prospects and, having no prospects, somewhat reluctantly accepts the proposal of a dull young man named Theodore Wither, because she is not likely to have any others. Theodore, however, is so convenient, or inconvenient, as to die after a year of marriage; and Viola goes to live with her in-laws: the appalling Mr Wither, the watery Mrs Wither, the jolly-hockey-sticks Madge and the neurotic Tina in a dire, frigid, over-furnished house marooned in a bit of Essex countryside. Viola is soon lonelier and more miserable than she can comprehend; and with nothing to look forward to, and nothing to think about except the one other large house in the area, where an extremely wealthy and rather handsome young man named Victor Spring lives with his mother and his cousin, gives flashy and dashing house parties, and is the romantic fantasy of every shop girl in Sible Pelden and Chesterbourne. And Victor Springs cousin, a young woman named Hetty, hates her comfortable, enforced high-bourgeois existence, and cant wait for her twenty-first birthday, when she is going to run off to London and live in a garret. . But Violas father was knocked down by a young man driving a car, and died in an hour.

I read this book when on a Stella Gibbons kick, after reading Cold Comfort Farm.

I loved the humour in the book and laughed out loud several times.

Nightingale Wood is a really delightful Cinderella type tale from the author who of course is better known for having brought us Cold Comfort Farm. Viola Withers is just twenty one, newly widowed of a much older husband, she finds herself obliged to go and live with her in laws at The Eagles in Essex. Not far away from The Eagles, and another rung or two up the social ladder are the Springs, Mrs Spring, her bookish niece Hetty and her son Victor, handsome and full of confidence, he is the undisputed Prince Charming of the neighbourhood. Victor Spring may be the Prince Charming of the piece, but he certainly appears to not be in any way a hero. At a ball which serves to bring some much needed distraction to the inhabitants of The Eagles, Victor first really notices Viola, despite having already given a lift to her and Tina when caught in a rain storm his intentions however are anything but honourable.

There are some delightfully cutting remarks, and some pleasant enough scene-setting.

Such a wonderful introduction for me into the work of Stella Gibbons.