Review 1710: Classics Club Spin Result! The Woods in Winter

I might have saved The Woods in Winter for a chillier time of year, but its number was chosen for me for the latest Classics Club spin. It’s a lovely tale.

Ivy Gover (not Gower, as it says on the back cover of my Furrowed Middlebrow edition), three times a widow and a charwoman, is living in a tidy but small North London flat when she receives a letter. Not being able to read well, she takes it to her employer, Miss Helen Green, who tells her she has inherited her great-uncle’s cottage out in Buckinghamshire for her lifetime.

Ivy abruptly moves to the country but not before stealing a neighbor’s dog that she has heard barking for months and finds living in its own dirt. Although the cottage is primitive and has a hole in its thatch, she moves right in and begins befriending the local animals. For she has a touch with wild things and for healing, as Lord Gowerville finds out when she magically cures his dying dog. The next day, he sends someone over to fix the thatch in her roof.

As Ivy befriends the birds, a fox, and eventually a boy, her neighbors also have their adventures. The vicar is suddenly taken with Pearl Cartaret, one of two sisters who open a tea shop. Helen is sometimes nearby pursuing an affair with an elusive young man. Angela Mordaunt, a “spinster” brought up by her mother more as a well-bred boy than a girl, catches the eye of Sam Lambert, a kind farm laborer.

This novel was the last one published (in 1970) during Stella Gibbons’ lifetime and displays a longing for the England of 40 years before, when most of it is set. I just loved it. It is funny yet astringent, has some engaging and other very lifelike characters, and contains lyrical descriptions of the countryside around Ivy’s cottage as well as a conservationist conclusion. Ivy herself is a spunky individualist. I liked her a lot.

Nightingale Wood

A Pink Front Door

Bramton Wick

18 thoughts on “Review 1710: Classics Club Spin Result! The Woods in Winter

  1. Jane August 20, 2021 / 10:56 am

    This sounds fun – I can’t believe I haven’t started this series yet!

      • Jane August 20, 2021 / 11:02 am

        British library women writers

      • whatmeread August 20, 2021 / 11:03 am

        This isn’t one of them. It’s Furrowed Middlebrow, but both are great.

  2. Christine August 20, 2021 / 12:16 pm

    This looks fantastic. I am completely obsessed with the Furrowed Middlebrow reprints. I’m thinking of having a “Furrowed Middlebrow Winter” in November, December and January. Have you seen the new round of covers for January’s D.E. Stevenson reprints? They are so gorgeous.

    • whatmeread August 20, 2021 / 12:29 pm

      I’ve seen some of them. That sounds like a fun idea.

  3. Simon T August 20, 2021 / 4:09 pm

    I resisted buying the new Gibbons reprints because I have so many of hers unread already, but you make this sound so intriguing…

  4. Penelope Graham August 20, 2021 / 4:43 pm

    I actually bought this book yesterday! Thought it would be good to try this author for a book other than the wonderful Cold Comfort Farm. Still laughing about Furrowed Middlebrow. Classic name. Good review thanks.

    • whatmeread August 20, 2021 / 7:32 pm

      Yes, it would seem to be a good pair. I haven’t read Cold Comfort Farm in a long time, and I remember I liked it a lot, although it is a spoof of the writing style of some other contemporary authors. I have read some of them now, so I might like it even better.

  5. Davida Chazan August 21, 2021 / 3:48 am

    Sounds good but… not being much of an animal lover, I’m not sure that I would be able to identify with the main character.

    • whatmeread August 21, 2021 / 11:51 am

      The animals aren’t in that much of it.

  6. Helen August 21, 2021 / 12:55 pm

    I think I’m probably the only person who didn’t really like Cold Comfort Farm, but I still want to try one of Stella Gibbons’ other books. This sounds like a good one.

    • whatmeread August 21, 2021 / 1:06 pm

      I remember liking it a lot, but that was at least 20 years ago. This one is good.

  7. kathyscottage August 22, 2021 / 11:06 am

    It sounds like a fun read. Good review!🙂

  8. Reese August 22, 2021 / 12:59 pm

    Cold Comfort Farm is the only one of hers I’ve read & I’ve been wondering which others to try.

    • whatmeread August 22, 2021 / 2:42 pm

      Furrowed Middlebrow has reprinted some good ones. I liked this one and The Pink Front Door, and there are several more I haven’t read yet.

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