Welcome to First Line Friday,
April, it turns out, is a fabulous month for read-alongs. First, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility with two of my sisters – and a mutual decision to listen to an audiobook version, with each individually finding and enjoying the same Librivox recording by Karen Savage. On April 2nd, I began my annual re-read of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Arnim as part of an Instagram read-along, reading one chapter a night. On the 7th I began another Instagram read-along, re-reading The Blue Castle, my favorite L.M. Montgomery novel, over the space of three evenings.
I had intended to wait until closer to the end of the month to begin the fourth read-along selection, but could not resist starting Spring Magic by D.E. (Dorothy Emily) Stevenson this week. This is the only one of the four that is completely new to me. I’m currently about 25% in and feeling that it could hardly be a better companion read to the the other three. Now, along with the English countryside, Muskoka in Ontario, and a castle in Italy, I’m on a vicarious holiday in the Scottish seaside village of Cairn, circa 1942.
Here is the publisher’s description, taken from my lovely new edition from Dean Street Press:
Frances was free. She had enough money for her holiday, and when it was over she would find useful work. Her plans were vague, but she would have plenty of time to think things out when she got to Cairn. One thing only was certain—she was never going back to prison again.
Young Frances Field arrives in a scenic coastal village in Scotland, having escaped her dreary life as an orphan treated as little more than a servant by an uncle and aunt. Once there, she encounters an array of eccentric locals, the occasional roar of enemy planes overhead, and three army wives—Elise, Tommy, and Tillie—who become fast friends. Elise warns Frances of the discomforts of military life, but she’s inclined to disregard the advice when she meets the dashing and charming Captain Guy Tarlatan.
The ensuing tale, one of D.E. Stevenson’s most cheerful and satisfying, is complicated by a local laird with a shady reputation, a Colonel’s daughter who’s a bit too cosy with Guy, a spring reputed to guarantee marriage within a year to those who drink from it, and a series of misunderstandings only finally resolved in the novel’s harrowing climax.
Spring Magic, first published in 1942, is here reprinted for the first time in more than three decades. Furrowed Middlebrow and Dean Street Press are also reprinting four more of Stevenson’s best works—Smouldering Fire, Mrs. Tim Carries On, Mrs. Tim Gets a Job, and Mrs. Tim Flies Home. This new edition includes an introduction by Alexander McCall Smith.
And here is the first line: