You never can tell what’s magic

As the shadows gather outside, it’s the season in which we’re reminded of our own mortality, yet preserve and protect ourselves ready to see us through wintry days, the time for seeking comfort. Season of lists and mellow fruitfulness… With apologies to Keats, it’s time, here in the northern hemisphere, to line up some autumn reading. Comfort reading.

I have a particular penchant, it seems, for a certain type of British ‘lady writer’. One born in the late 18th or early 1900s, and who then strode through the twentieth century on her own terms, gathering experiences, making her mark on paper, not afraid to buck conventions, perhaps marrying though possibly not, but self-sufficient always.

The pleasure of re-discovering or finding out about old books

I have already mentioned on this blog my appreciation for Monica Dickens (here). Daphne Du Maurier I could adore; Rosamond Lehmann yes, most definitely. Finding or re-discovering these books is like finding a little bit of treasure, or unearthing a loved but half-forgotten item that’s been stuffed into the attic a while. I not only gobble their fiction but also seek out memoir biography, insights into the wide fascinating canvas of the previous century (admittedly more rewarding if one was comfortable financially, as these women were).

Currently, I am a rediscovering an author I haven’t read since childhood, Noel Streatfeild (1895 –11 September 1986). She is best known for her children’s classic Ballet Shoes (and a series of books re-marketed as the ‘Shoes’ series). Alongside that book, I read, that I can recollect, White Boots, Thursday’s Child, and the Gemma series. These had common themes. Like many children’s books, the young heroes were enviably free of their parents and forced into independence (enviable even when this was due to misfortune, such as illness, divorce, or even being orphaned!) Then the glamourous themes of the stage, theatre, dance, even film (Streatfeild herself had ten years’ stage acting experience to call upon).

Streatfeild was enormously prolific as a writer, producing over eighty books for children and for adults, in addition to three volumes of autobiography and some of memoir besides.

It’s a pleasure to see that her adult fiction has many of the same cosy and domestic motifs, the same circumstances of genteel poverty, as the works for children. Dinner parties are planned, socks darned and hems lengthened, fires are poked into flame to toast crumpets, and parents fret about insufficient funds to afford school fees or a tutor – presumably the idea of sending the offspring to the local school would have been insupportable. Families hunker down and live out the relative deprivations of wars, depression, and shortages, making the best of what they have. Much of this presumably stems from Miss Streatfeild’s own vicarage up-bringing.

All of this homely detail and keeping of wolves from the door makes these stories the ideal cold-weather read. And fit with my own current mood for nesting and hibernation. As the season cools and darkens, the stove will get lit and perhaps, maybe, I’ll even toast and butter an English muffin in Miss Streatfeild’s honour.

The title of this post, by the way, is from Ballet Shoes – when suggesting that an unexpected windfall which arrived in the post was coincidence rather than kismet, Posy responds to her sisters: “It might have been [fairy powers] all the same; you never can tell what’s magic.” Which sort of brings us back to rediscovering authors and old books that provide unexpected riches.

Do you have a favourite seasonal read or author, whether it’s autumn / fall or any other time of year?

Images
Clem Onojeghuo Liana Mikah on Unsplash

14 thoughts on “You never can tell what’s magic

  1. So many great books out there. I lost track of what I’d read, starting recording them on Goodreads, but still lost those early ones. Nice I bet to revisit those you love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, we’re so spoiled for choice. I don’t think I’ve ever read across so many genres.

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  2. Thanks, I’m going to look up Miss Streatfield, I’m sure I would enjoy het adult books. I was a child obsessed with pony books so I missed out reading a lot of classic children’s stories – and I never did get a pony!

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    1. Nor me – but my younger sister did! It’s okay, don’t need the psychologist any more 🙂 I remember the pony books, Ruby Ferguson and the Pullein-Thompsons.

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  3. I remember enjoying ‘Ballet Shoes’ as a child. Thanks for reviving the memory!

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    1. 🙂 It’s one of those books that’s nice to pass on to the youngers.

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  4. I love the various permutations of everyday magic, and books have always fallen into that space for me.
    Some of the books that were very special to me were the Todd Moran series by Howard Pease, and the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich.

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    1. Me too. And there you go, I had no idea Janet Evanovich had written children’s books. I’ll look out for the Plum series for my girl.

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  5. I re-read The Great Gatsby every year.

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    1. Amazing how the occasional special book never tires – I read Wuthering Heights about every two years, and know I’ll be back.

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  6. Seasonal read or author? Hmmm. No. (There are no seasons here!) 🙂
    Alexandre Dumas or Théophile Gauthier, or Mary Shelley would be good winter reads by the chimney. With a bottle of Port nearby. 🙂
    I wish I knew (and had time to read those authors you mention). The cultural mongrel that I am enjoys somerset Maugham as much as Saint-Exupéry or García Marquez, but that leaves me little time to read “all”. I guess I should walk along the cliffs of Cornwall with a bag full of English authors… (But books weigh a ton. Or have a Uber Books service deliver them at my next destination?) (Hmmm. Could be a story there)
    Be good Libre.

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    1. No seasons? Near the equator? The image of the fireside and port are compelling. I also have the habit of trying to read books related to place – Bashevis Singer’s The Magician of Lublin in Lublin, Pamuk in Istanbul… Maybe the afore-mentioned Daphne du Maurier would be one for Cornwall? Have a good weekend, and a next good read.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not so near the Equator. But in Mexico city, the winter is mild, lots of light (rainy season ends around October) and most trees never loose their foliage. So, the impression is of constant weather. Sometimes, especially in late January, early February, I have to check the calendar…
        And than you, you too.
        🙂

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  7. Rediscovering new old authors is a great idea 💡..especially when the darkness arrives 🙂
    Personally, I’m reading a lot of poetry during fall

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