33. Jane's Parlour
by O. Douglas
hardcover, 374 pages
As I hoped when I wrote my Pink Sugar book report, Tom did indeed buy me the O. Douglas book in our little town antique shop. Five dollars, and worth a lot more. A lovely book in so many ways. O. Douglas is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers, and I look forward to collecting each of her books. I'm going to write this book report a wee bit differently. It is going to be strictly a collection of quotes from Jane's Parlour which will give you the flavor and the feel of her writing and her subject matter. The book is 'about' several families in the Scottish Borders: neighbors, friends, parents and children, those who are living away at present, newcomers, and old settled families. We learn of them through conversations and through letters. I loved this book beyond words, and hope you will try and find a copy for yourselves. I think it would be great if Persephone Books decided to reprint some or all of her books.
It seems almost wicked to say it, but I honestly like winter better than summer. I like it when the curtains are drawn at four o'clock - or not drawn, for Nicole likes to see the dark night outside - and we can look forward to a long peaceful evening with work and books.
"I enjoy that too," said Nicole; "but, oh, Mother, think of early mornings in summer, when the sea is like mother-of-pearl! Think of the moon on the loch at Kinbervie! Think of the long hot days in the heather!"
"Think of the midges!" said Jean Douglas. "I agree with your mother that winter is the nicest time, but my poor Thomas doesn't. He revels in the long days, and is sadly bored by the winter evenings, though this flood of crime novels has been a great help to him. He can get through a novel in an evening [!!], but I'm going to stop such excess this winter by making him listen for an hour every night to Jane Austen."
"A good idea," said Nicole. "I should think an hour of Jane would give piquancy to the crime."
"Jean," said her husband in outraged tones, "I never heard you were thinking of going away from home next week."
"What a man!" said Jean to the table at large. "He never listens to what I say, and then complains that he's left in the dark! Thomas, my dear, you yourself suggested next week as being most convenient."
"Only vaguely," said Thomas. "I didn't know you'd actually decided to go. How long did you say you were going to stay?"
Have you heard the warnings not to give chocolate to dogs? It seems like this has been done for a long time with no ill effects. In my childhood, my father bought chocolate buttercreams and gave our dog Rusty one every single day of his twelve years. :<) Here is a report of a plan for a dog's birthday:
"Phil's going to take him for a walk after breakfast alone - no other dogs allowed. And we've bought him half a pound of chocolates at the village shop all for himself - he loves chocolates - and cook has iced a dog-biscuit and put ten candles on it."
"Rational conversation is made impossible in this house by the constant presence of dogs."
There is an upcoming picnic, and the mother has been invited.
"Very well, and I'll bring some eatables."
"Don't!" Car advised. "You'll only insult the Lockhart's cook. Wouldn't you hate it if invited guests came carrying pokes of provender?"
"I daresay I would," Katharyn agreed. (How wise children were compared to their parents!)
"I like the cold, it makes me feel very well and jolly. I really like the country best in winter, when others fly from it. The thought of bare trees and the cold wind outside and blazing wood-fires inside makes my heart jump up somehow."
It always amused Katharyn Eliot to be asked how she managed to fill her days in winter-time in the depths of the country. ... There was no boredom in her days; they were all too short. It was a delight to get up in the morning with a quiet day before her, to breakfast with Tim and the dogs, to write, if her brain worked, all morning; then luncheon, followed, if they were alone, by a walk with Tim; tea in Jane's Parlour; letter-writing till dinner-time (four children away meant two letters to each every week); dinner, and the sort of evening they both enjoyed above everything, reading, a little talk, sometimes music on the wireless, the news, and early to bed. Dull? How could she be dull, Katharyn asked. She was in her own home where everything that happened interested her profoundly. The servants, in the house and on the estate, were her friends, what affected them affected her. She loved the place in all the changes the seasons brought. To her it was more exciting to watch the leaves fall and the swallows depart at Eliotstoun and to welcome the first snowdrops and bird notes of the bleak Border spring, than to cheat the winter gloom and follow the swallows to lands where it was always summer.
Like me she is such a homekeeper that any little jaunt seems an adventure.
"Nobody lives to herself in this world, we all depend on each other. I'm not clever, I know that very well, but I've sense enough to see that it makes for happiness and comfort to be on good terms with our fellow-creatures, to try to like them, to be interested in them and in what concerns them. Mind you, there are far too few interested people, people you can go to and tell all that happens, and show them your new clothes, and know they're pleased to listen and look. When Mrs. Brown died - you remember the invalid lady who lived in the pretty cottage at Sandy Bay? - I never saw more genuine grief. Someone said to me at the service in the house, 'I'll miss her terribly. She was so interested. I could go to her and tell her everything and always knew she cared. Her house was a haven to many.' I thought that was almost as good an epitaph as one could wish for."
I've been slack about continuing on with what I lovingly called 'the Guernsey effect' - from these words in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society:
That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive - all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.
From Jane's Parlour, I learned of The Young Visitors. I recognized the name from a PBS program which I didn't watch, but had heard of. I've put it in my Netflix queue, and look forward to reading the book.
"Didn't you ever read The Young Visitors? Oh, but you must. I think it's not only one of the funniest books ever written, but full of profound truths."
I shall end this long book report of quotes, and only hope you may feel some of the kindness, the joy, the intelligence, and the warmth of Jane's Parlour.