Day 86: Nightingale Wood

Cover for Nightingale WoodI hardly know how to categorize Nightingale Wood, written in 1938. On Amazon, it is called a romance, but the novel is a little cynical for that. It is described on Wikipedia as a rewrite of the fairy tale Cinderella. If so, neither the heroine or hero is what you would expect. Stella Gibbons, better known for writing Cold Comfort Farm, has written a charming, light novel with a touch of acid.

Viola Withers comes to live with her in-laws after her husband dies, leaving her penniless. The Withers’s home is uncomfortable and gloomy, containing miserly Mr. Withers; socially conscious Mrs. Withers, who thinks her son (Viola’s husband) married beneath her; and two unhappy daughters, Tina and Madge. Viola soon meets Victor, a wealthy cad who is almost engaged, and falls in love with him.

Gibbons’s characters are quirky and obsessive, and even the heroine and hero are not totally sympathetic. Viola is silly and not very bright, Tina is in love with the chauffeur, and Madge cares only about getting a dog. And I think we know enough about Mr. and Mrs. Withers already. What makes Gibbons’s books appealing is that people turn out to be better than they seem at first, and everyone gets what he or she deserves.


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