‘A Day of Small Things’ by O. Douglas

What can I say, I loved it. Another great Kailyard novel. A Kailyard is a Scottish novel known for its sentimental representation of rural village life, free from real life issues and problems. The Kailyard became a popular form of writing in the 1890’s. The Scots word Kailyard or Kailyaird means a small cabbage patch or kitchen garden usually adjacent to a cottage. Some writers of the Kailyard school are J.M. Barrie, George MacDonald, Ian Maclaren, J.J. Bell, S.R. Crockett and of course O. Douglas.

In this day and age where we see such vile things happening everyday on the news I for one am really enjoying these sentimental, happy, sappy whatever you want to call them stories. I love being in such a lovely place, even if it is only for a day or two!

‘You needn’t give a thought to me,’ she said. ‘I’m absurdly pleased with life. Of course, things are different now, but once you accept that fact it’s all right. To you and to me this is the day of small things – Who said that? Some one in the Bible, wasn’t it? And the small things keep you going wonderfully: the kindness of friends; the fact of being needed; nice meals; books; interesting plays; the funny people in the world; the sea and the space and the wind – not very small, are they, after all?’
                                 Nicole to her mother, Lady Jane

Set in Post World War 1 Scotland, Lady Jane Rutherfurd and her daughter Nicole have lost their big estate after the death of her husband. She lost her two boys to the war. She and Nicole move to an odd little house on the sea in Fife – the village of Kirkmeikle. Miss Douglas’ stories always have a lovely quaint, quirky house at the center of them! Harbour House is no exception. ‘It is a dignified old house with high-pointed roof and crow-step gables; with its front door to a narrow street, a little secret garden behind, and nine small-paned windows looking out to the sea. Sitting in the long drawing-room at high tide it was as if they were surrounded by water.’ You’ll fall in love with the house immediately!

Full of lovely characters, Lady Jane and Nicole are the favorites of all the village people. They are so gentle and loving that everyone loves them. There is old Mrs. Heggie, the very large widow and her daughter Joan. Mrs. Heggie loves to entertain for tea and find out all the gossip. The newest resident is Esme Jameson, also a widow, dealing with a cantankerous gardener named, John Grumblie, (you smiled just now, didn’t you? Made me chuckle too). Mr. & Mrs. Lambert, (he’s the vicar) and Charles Walkinshaw to name a few others. Par for the course in an O. Douglas there is the resident orphan boy, taken in by the Rutherfurds. His name is Alastair, nicknamed ‘the bat’ because the first time they saw him he was wearing a very large overcoat that made him look like he had wings and then Spider the dog who is his constant companion. Even the family car has a nickname in this story – The Worm!

Early on Lady Jane and Nicole invite another orphan, only this one is 19, to come and stay with them for the summer. Althea Gort is distant and cold because of her dismal upbringing and Nicole isn’t too keen on her coming. She is sure it will be a terrible mistake and she will make their life miserable.  What do you think happened to Althea? 🙂

John Dalrymple is in love with Nicole and has been his whole life. He asked her to marry him once and she turned him down. She fell in love with an adventurer, writer named Simon Beckett who died 3 days after they were engaged. Everyone wonders if she will come around and eventually marry John.

Towards the end of the book they take a wonderful family vacation to the Isle of Mull and the beautiful descriptions of the land and loch, and of course the house, make you feel like you are there and leave you planning your own trip to this wonderland!

A joy to read, too bad it is such an old book and out of print and hard to find. I recommend it if you can find it!

5 thoughts on “‘A Day of Small Things’ by O. Douglas

  1. You know, when more people lived in small towns instead of cities or sprawling suburbs, life was more like this. Not just 'sappy' but real. The woman had lost two sons. It doesn't get worse than that in any time or place. I think people like O. Douglas and Miss Read and even Jan Karon focus on relationships between real people rather than relationships, or the lack thereof, between people and those they don't really know, like celebrities, or reality tv people. Conversations now often involve the newest event in the lives of people in magazines. And yet we don't visit our neighbors. Weird, isn't it.

    I have met these characters before in Jane's Parlour.

    I really want to read this one. Thanks so much for the wonderful review.

    Oh, and a recommendation. One of my favorite all time books is My Dear Aunt Flora by Elizabeth Cadell. I'm quite sure you would love it.


  2. I got My Dear Aunt Flora through Inter Library Loan years ago, and I've tried to buy a copy but it is REALLY expensive. I can't imagine why. EC is not a hugely famous writer. I'm very fond of her work, but she isn't that well read, I don't believe.


  3. My library has many Cadell books but not My Dear Aunt Flora. It is amazing that her books are soooo expensive they really aren't that old on the scale of things. I will go down to the library and see if they can find it anywhere for me. You also have me interested in Miss Read now:)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s