‘Penny Plain‘ by Anna Buchan (writing as O. Douglas). Anna is the sister of John Buchan who wrote ‘The 39 Steps’ and other adventurous spy thrillers. Anna’s books are quite a departure from Johns. She writes beautiful depictions of small town life with rich full characters exhibiting old fashioned values. This book was written in the 1920’s. Greyladies is an Edinburgh publishing company that specializes in re-printing adult books by children’s authors. You might want to bookmark their sight, if you like these kind of books! I read the ebook version that you can download free at Project Gutenberg, but I really would love to find a copy in written word. (It’s so much easier to flip back and forth in the pages!)
Our story takes place in fictional Priorsford, Scotland on the river Tweed, just after WWI. The Jardine family, Jean 23 and guardian to 3 brothers, David 19, Jock 14, and adopted Gervase 7, live in an old quaint house called The Rigs. It has windows in odd places, strange shaped rooms, mullioned windows and a beautiful garden. Gervase is called the Mhor (gaelic for the great one) by the family and he is always accompanied by the fox terrier, Peter, who is the wickedest dog in Priorsford! Every boy should have a dog like Peter! Mrs. M’cosh is the housekeeper who has been with the Jardines for years. Jean is a young woman of high moral values and the kindest, most giving heart in the world. Jean’s aunt has passed away and left her in charge of the 3 boys and The Rigs. She works very hard and sacrifices much to make sure the boys have everything they need on a very small yearly allowance. Although life is very sparse and difficult for the Jardine family they have love, a joy for living, faith, and books! Their house is filled with books.
Peter Reid, the owner of The Rigs, is a very wealthy, lonely man who just found out he is dying and goes home to The Rigs with the intention of making the tenants move out so he can live out his time left in his boyhood home. He has no one to leave his vast fortune to and decides he will leave it to the first person who shows him a kindness without any want of anything in return. Will he make the Jardines move? Who does he end up leaving his fortune to?
Pamela Reston is a socialite who in her middle age is questioning what her life has been for and comes to Priorsford to get away from the whirlwind of the social scene and see what small town quiet life is all about. She rents a room at Bella Bathgates and immediately meets up with The Mhor (no one is a stranger to the Mhor!) and finds herself immersed in the daily lives of the Jardines. Pam’s brother, Biddy, comes to Priorsford to visit her after returning home from India and the war and falls head over heels for Jean. Does Biddy tell Jean how he feels and will his love go unrequited? Does Pam fit in, in Priorsford? Does she long for London or decide to stay?
The other villagers are a delight, the minister and his wife, The Jowetts, Bella, Mrs. Hope, Mrs. Duff-Whalley, the two Miss Speirs (one a spiritualist and one a Buddist) and the 3 spinster Duncan sisters (Miss Mary, Miss Janet and Miss Phemie). You will find yourself wishing you could be invited to tea at any one of these homes!
I read one review that said it was a little to saccharin for them, but I found this a wonderful comfort read, taking me back to a slower, happier way of life full of selflessness and love for others. It is full of fun and I highly recommend this book and will be reading all the O Douglas books I can get my hands on!