How glorious the autumn colours are, though the ground is sodden. The woods, the dying bracken and withered heather on the hillside, all seem deepend and enriched by the rain, and now that the sunlight is falling on them they are glowing with russet reds and browns turning to deep purple in the shadow. (p. 159)
I have fallen in love with Dean Street Press! Their books are so gentle and good–the perfect antidote for today’s world. Dear Hugo is one step better–it is an epistolary novel, a story told in letters. I am a big fan of such books told in the form of letters, diaries, emails or whatever. “Epistles”–like those in the Bible, or “serials” are stories told in “episodes” or small chunks. I like that.
It sounded affected to say that I had nothing to wish for, thought it was true enough. For I have what I need, and I am content, and I did not thick that to wish for a slightly larger oven or a new vaccum-cleaner was the right kind of which, somehow. (p. 44)
Scotland in post-war was a refuge for Sara Monteith. One of many women denied the dignity of widowhood by the cruelty of war, Sara, whose fiance, Ivo, was killed before they could marry, has moved to a cottage in the place where he grew up. Written between June 1951 and just after the Coronation in June 1953, her letters are addressed to his brother Hugo, who is out in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Along the way she acquires guardianship of sorts over her cousin’s son, known as “Atty” when he is home from his pubic school (boarding school or prep school to Americans). Sara’s letters show her healing from her loss, her involvement in her local community and the cast of characters who live there. And, a little later in the story, the wonderful Pam appears. Pam (male) is a standard poodle.
He was looking at me with a puzzled expression on his face–one of those rather craggy faces, very brown, with his cheek bones and a big nose, that go so well with the glengarry bonnets worn by Highland regiments. (p. 35)
The curlers, too, have been in their element, and tremendous day-long battles between rinks from all the villages round have been waged. The deep-toned ring of the stones over the ice could be heard long after the sun set like a huge orange balloon among smoky clouds, and the moons sailed up over the shoulder of hill … (p. 77)
Typical of Dean Street Press books, Dear Hugo, moves at the pace of it’s own day, not of ours, but the end, again, had me not wanting to put it down–to see how it ended! And, again, I did not see the end coming (it is nothing horrible). This was a beautifully paced book, and Sara, is a much more generous soul than I can ever be! (No spoilers). Her simple contentment is an inspiration without ever being precious. I loved her and Atty and Pam and several others in the village of Ravenskirk.
“The average raincoat is a depressant in itself.” (p. 73)
The ending made me rate this even higher.