Friday, July 3, 2009

Jane's Parlour by O. Douglas

33. Jane's Parlour
by O. Douglas
fiction, 1937
hardcover, 374 pages
finished, 7/1/09

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."

Another lead came from the quote by Mary Russell Mitford which I used as a quote du jour. I have since found her book, Our Village, online and am planning to read it. This is the second 'Guernsey effect' for this book, as it was mentioned in Mrs. Malory and No Cure for Death.

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.


  1. Isn't it a wonderful book? Good news! Greyladies is planning on reprinting them.

    Not sure of timescale however.


  2. I've never heard of this author before but I just requested one of her books - The Proper Place - from my library. Looking forward to reading it - thanks!

  3. Another going on my tbr list. My great aunt used to feed her dog M&Ms every day. She lived for a long time but she was a roly-poly.

  4. What a great blog. You made me want to read and find her books. Thank YOU!I only have one of her books. The biography of her brother.


  5. Thoroughly enjoyed that and, oh, for an epitaph like Mrs Brown's. What better one could there be than to have been described as being interested in one's fellow human beings. (And, oh, for the house servants to get the breakfast ready for me...)

  6. Jane's Parlour sounds delightful! I love the borders area; so beautiful.

    I too love to read books mentioned in other books. I feel like a detective as I hunt to find them in my many different sources.

    What would we do without books?

  7. Thanks for taking the trouble to provide the extracts they make very enjoyable reading, I came across her books after really enjoying John Buchan's 'shockers'(My favourites of his are 'John McNab' and 'Sick heart river') and then reading his biography/autobiography and that led me to his sister, they are very wholesome (in the nicest sense) books aren't they.. like good fresh homebaked bread, with lovely descriptions..she described a room so attractively once that I copied the description into my journal with the wish to create a room like it someday..
    Thanks again for a enjoyable moment.

  8. Oh this sounds lovely and I have taken a note of the author. I love books set in the country and in this period and just putting a selection of these quotes gives us a real taste of the writing and has really whetter my appetite.

    The Young Visiters by Daisy Ashford is quite wonderful. Written when she was about seven it has been printed with all her spelling mistakes and is witty, funny and my goodness that child has an observant eye. Published in 1929. My edition has a preface by J M Barrie.

  9. What a lovely review. I'm so glad you're enjoying O Douglas. She quickly became a favourite and much re-read author as soon as I discovered her. I share her view on the seasons; autumn will always be my favourite.

  10. Nan, you are brilliant at finding these almost forgotten treasures. Are there any modern writers expressing the same kind of values today? My mind has gone blank on that one.


  11. You are such a tease! I will now be on the hunt for O. Douglas books. :)

  12. Donna, thank you so much!! I can't seem to get into the site this morning, but will try again. I am just thrilled. What is it about all these wonderful, wonderful British publishers bringing back the great old books?! I think I'm going to put a list on my sidebar since there must be others who would love to visit them. Again, I am very, very happy to hear this.

    Island Sparrow, I think this author is one you will love. There's a gentleness and a sense of place that I think will appeal to you. I'll be interested in what you think of The Proper Place. Next year, when I'm buying books again, I want to get all of hers. :<)

    Book Psmith, Is the moral of this story that roly-poly equals long life! I know a lot of people who would hope so. :<)

    Bonnie, thanks! I want to read the biog. of her brother. And I want to read more of his books. I've just read The Thirty-Nine Steps, and liked it. Of course, as different from O. Douglas books as could be. :<)

    Scriptor Senex, I know! And wouldn't we be just the kindest of employers?!

    Debbie, you know the movie where Tom Hanks is stranded on an island? I had anxiety watching it thinking about having no books. :<) That's a great notion about feeling like a detective. Perfect.

    Val, I just love descriptions of interiors. I love imagining myself in rooms I read about. The parlour of the title is such a nice room. I should have included its description, too. :<) I like your bread analogy.

    Elaine, that is the edition I will try and find when I buy books again next year. I did not know the author was a child! I'm glad you liked the quotes. It just felt like the best way to get across the wonder of O. Douglas' words and thoughts.

    Call Me Madam, we certainly share a taste in books, don't we?! Gosh, I love O. Douglas. I only wish she had used her own name. Much prettier, don't you think? :<)

    Carole, I think maybe the two early ones by Raffaela Barker - Hens Dancing, and Summertime would qualify. The nonfiction writer about her home, Dominique Browning's two books - Around the House and in the Garden, and Paths of Desire. Do you read the older writers, D.E. Stevenson and Iris Bromige? There is one book by IB that I thought perfect called The Quiet Hills.

    Karin, these books are your cuppa tea, my dear!

  13. I'll be scouring the second-hand book shops for O. Douglas books. Thank you for the introduction to her.

  14. "Rational conversation is made impossible in this house by the constant presence of dogs." this has got to be one of my new favorite lines - with two little yappy dogs, one of them quite senile, this could be written on a flag and hung outside our home!

  15. How lovely to have this recommendation, Nan ... I had an O Douglas book when I was a child, in the same edition as the one you've been reading, a little pale blue book which I read and read. But I've only ever read that one of hers - now I'm definitely going to put that right ... thank you so much


  16. Maureen, I happened onto her so very accidentally when I was shopping online at anglophile books.

    They offer two books now, and I see that The Proper Place really precedes Jane's Parlour.

    Susan, I love it! So, so true!

    Joanna, O. Douglas is simply wonderful. I so look forward to reading each of her books. I'm guessing old book shops would offer her work, and also if you type her name into google, you'll find some sources.

  17. "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."

    This sounds just like you!!

    Wonderful, wonderful post, Nan. I loved reading each and every passage and think I would enjoy the book very much. Is she similar to Rosamunde Pilcher? I do love an author that has the ability to transport me into their characters' world through their detailed descriptions of domesticity. Lovely, lovely!

    Do you have the prequel to this book?

  18. Les, you're so right. That passage describes me perfectly! Is she like RP? I don't know how to answer. I suppose in some ways. Detailed descriptions of locales, both inside and out. I find more similarities with D.E. Stevenson; one by Iris Bromige called The Quiet Hills; one by Elizabeth Cadell called My Dear Aunt Flora. But I guess my answer would be a mild yes, particularly The Shell Seekers and WInter Solstice (which I feel are her best). Older days of course.

  19. Les, I forgot to answer - no I don't have the prequel, The Proper Place but her books will be among my first purchases next year!!

  20. Thank you thank you thank you! I never buy a book that someone hasn't read already! Now I am so intrigued! I can't wait to go shopping and looking it up!

  21. Linda, hope you like it. I'm so very fond of O. Douglas.

  22. Like a few others here I'm going to be on the lookout for books by this author now and will check the library catalogue in a moment. Your quotes were delightful!

  23. Cath, I was so hoping that the quotes would give a real sense of both her writing and her subject matter. I love O. Douglas!

  24. I'm so glad to hear other people raving about O Douglas. I've loved her books for years especially Proper Place and Pink Sugar. I haven't read Jane's palour though I'll have to hunt for it.

  25. Lindsay, I'm so pleased you somehow found this post. I am a new O. Douglas fan and have just read this and Pink Sugar (did you see that 'book report?') and am hoping to find some more online. These are books I could read over and over.Thanks for leaving a note.

  26. I've just ordered Jane's parlour from amazon :) its got quite a lot of her books if you search under Anna Buchan. The day of small things is really good as well, its about the rutherfurds too. I read them over and over again too. Penny Plain and it's sequel Priorsford are great too, they all have the same kind of comfort to them. So glad I found this site i'll have to look for other recommendations.

  27. Lindsay, thanks for letting me know. I'm going to spend some time today seeing about getting more of her work.

  28. I'm slow I know this post was so long ago but I just found it and I love it. I like how you just put quotes from the book! I too am so excited to find all of her books and treasure them!

  29. I'm so pleased you came back to read this, Peggy. And I'm pleased to have met a fellow O.Douglas fan.


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