The Setons

by O. Douglas 1917

The Setons depicts ordinary Scottish country life in the early 20th century, as young Elizabeth Seton uses her strength of character to keep the household together following her mother’s death.

Published in 1917, The Setons offers a convincing glimpse into the lives of an ordinary Scottish family, whose members share a passion for books and reading. Through her story, O. Douglas is keen to express the values of a society now long departed, recounting simple scenes and events which carry their own unique, heartfelt and pleasant qualities.

Although lacking in adventure, this book offers an illuminating look at how community and family life stood at the heart of traditional Scotland. The conclusion, at the very beginning of World War I, foreshadows the modern world; men in the locality are at first excited to be leaving their quiet and secluded Scottish homeland, but this exuberance is replaced by sorrow as news of death after death reaches home.


I thoroughly enjoyed this comfort read! It’s been a while since I picked up an O. Douglas read. She never disappoints. Elizabeth has taken on the running of the manse household after her mother died. That includes raising her younger brother and doing all the church functions expected from a pastor’s wife. She’s wonderful with her brother, Buff, and his two friends, playing raucous games and reading to them. And is equally comfortable visiting sick and old parishioners or collecting for missions. I loved her sweet, fun, playful, grateful demeanor immensely! She has two older brothers who have already left home. This book is set in Glasgow, a wonderful city!

One of the characters, Old Mrs. Thomson was talking about a wee holiday her and her husband took to the Kyles Hydro. It was a real place! I found pictures from it from before the outbreak of the war!

If you want to see more pictures of the inside of the hotel click HERE.

I loved what Mrs. Thomson said about her visit when her friend Mrs. Hendry said she had niver been to a hydro in her life and it must be a grand rest… “That’s so,” Mrs. Thomson admitted. “It give you a kind of rested feeling to see white paint everywhere and know that it’s no business of yours if it gets marked, and to sit and look at a fine fire blazing itself away without thinkin’ you should be getting on a shovel of dross; and it’s a real holiday feeling to put on your rings and your afternoon dress for breakfast.”

Mr. Seton is such a dear, I’d love to have him for a pastor! A family friend came to visit, a young man, Arthur, and he said to Elizabeth that he though what a tremendous thing for people to have a padre like her father, his very face is an inspiration. His eyes made him think of a character in The Pilgrim’s Progress who had a ‘wonderful innocent smile’. and Elizabeth said of her father.. “I know. Isn’t it wonderful, after sixty odd years in this world? There is something so oddly joyous about him. And it isn’t that sort of provoking fixed brightness that some Christian people have – people who have read Robert Louis and don’t mean to falter in their task of happiness. When you ask them how they are, they say ‘Splendid’; and when you remark, conversationally, that the weather is ghastly beyond words, they pretend to find pleasure in it, until, like Pet Marjorie, you feel your biers rise at them. Father knows just how bad the world is, the cruelty, the toil, the treason; he knows how bitter sorrow is, and what it means to lay hopes in the grave, but he looks beyond and sees something so ineffably lovely – he can go on with his day’s work joyfully.” and Arthur remarked the other world seems extradorinarily real to him and Elizabeth replied, “Heaven is much the realest place there is to Father. I do believe that when he is toiling away in the Gorbals he never sees the squalor for thinking of the streets of gold. The nicest thing about my father is that he is full of contradictions. So gentle and with such an uncompromising creed! The Way is the Way to Father, narrow and hard and comfortless. And he is so good, so purely good, and yet never righteous over much. There is a sort of ingrained humility and lovableness in him that attracts the sinners as well as the saints….” Such a dear man and he loves to get lost in books! My kind of guy!

When showing Arthur around Glasgow, a city and people Elizabeth dearly loves, she compares Edinburgh and Glasgow… “Edinburgh is rows and rows of smug, well built houses, each with a front garden, each with a front gate, and each front gate remains shut against the casual caller until you have rung a bell and the occupants have had time to make up their minds about you from behind the window curtains – when some mechanism in the vestibule is set in motion, the gate opens and you walk in. That almost seems to me the most typical thing about Edinburgh. Glasgow doesn’t keep visitors at the gate. Glasgow is on the doorstep to welcome them in. It is just itself – cheerful, hard-working, shrewd, kindly, a place that has no call to be bonny; it gets through it’s days work. They are ‘weel pleased’ and the more complacency the more ‘weel pleased’ we are.”

Will a romance bloom between Arthur and Elizabeth? I’m not saying! But the last section of the book is sad. WWI begins and all the devastation it brings with it. But these are strong, resilient people who love God and have a strong shepherd to lead them. They will survive. It’s a lovely treasure of a book. You can get a free digital copy at Project Gutenburg!

Have you read any O. Douglas? Her books are a real treasure to me.

Pink Sugar by O. Douglas

I signed on for The 1924 Club co-hosted by Simon @ Stuck in A Book and Karen @Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings. I read Pink Sugar by O. Douglas for this challenge. Very enjoyable read!

My copy a fifth printing Sept. 1924

Kirsty Gilmour is a 30 year old spinster. She has spent her life traveling the world from hotel to hotel with her step-mother. Her father died when she was young. All she longed for was a home of her own and a simple life. After her stepmom dies, Kirsty finally gets her dream. She finds a house and settles in the borders area of Scotland, her home before her father died. Little Phantasy is a plain house in an old fashioned garden near running water, the Hope Water. It’s a queer little uneven house with stairs going up and down, a few steps everywhere. Now that Kirsty is free to make what she will of her life she has decided to live for others.

She learns through her friend Blanche of 3 small children who have lost their mother and their father is setting off to travel the world to ‘get over’ the loss of his wife. It’s arranged for the children and their nannie to come stay at Little Phantasy. Her elderly Aunt Fannie comes to live with her too.

Kirsty comes to love Bad Bill, Specky and Barbara as her own. She dreads the day their father comes to collect them and half convinces herself she will marry him to get to keep the children.

“Blanche thought for a moment. ‘Barbara must be ten, and Specky eight; and Bill – Bad Bill- is between five and six,’
‘Why is he bad?’ Kirsty asked.
‘I think because he can’t help it. No, I’m not maligning him. He really is rather a terror, old Bill. He passes over his sister and brother like a Juggernaut, leaving them flattened but furious.'”

Kirsty’s description of Bill as she sees him getting off the train…
‘Bill’s head was large and covered with tossed yellow hair which defied the brush. His eyes were a lovely sea-blue with golden lashes. His nose was short and inclined to turn up, he had a long upper lip, a wide curly mouth, and a heavy jowl. ‘Like a bloodhound,’ Kirsty said to herself, and although it seems improbably that golden-haired boy should even remotely suggest a blood hound, yet the likeness was there.”

Colonel Archie Home is her landlord. Having been away in the military, comes home to stay and becomes a regular visitor at Little Phantasy. The children love him, especially Bad Bill. Kirsty, seeing only the good in everyone and everything is happy and content. Colonel Home accuses her of having a pink sugar view of life. She accuses him of having too negative a view. Are the children the source of her contentment or is Colonel Home? Are they too different from each other or do they balance each other out?

The pastor Robert Brand lives with his spinster sister, Rebecca. They are very poor and Rebecca is a bitter woman. Kirsty tries to befriend her, but Rebecca sees her as self-righteous and spurns her friendship and help. When her brother Robert falls in love and becomes engaged to Carty, the nannie, a scene develops between Rebecca and Kirsty and Kirsty’s pink sugar bubble is popped.

I adore O. Douglas’ kailyard tales that take us back to a simpler time full of goodness and love. As in all her stories we have the sweet little house that becomes a character of its own and the requisite rowdy boy, but the faithful dog was missing from this one! Characters from Penny Plain make an appearance in this story too, Pamela Reston who married Lewis Elliot. Lovely to catch up with them!

I learned about an old game I had never heard of before in this book too, Clock Golf. Quite popular during this time period.

I enjoy the smattering of Scot words like smirr. On page 130 we find… ‘She stopped and looked out of the window at the smirr of rain drifting over Ratchell Hill, then observed despondently, ‘But even the garden is hardly worth it.’  Smirr means a mist-like precipitation. It is deceptive in that it is such a soft rain, but it coats very evenly and very quickly leaves one drenched.

And always in an O. Douglas tale there are many books read and mentioned by the characters. I love looking for them and am always tickled when I find one! Some of the books mentioned in this one are…
Told By An Idiot by Rose Macaulay 1923 Reprinted by Virago
Crossriggs by Mary and Jane Findlater 1913  (click link to read or download) This book was reprinted by Virago!
Anna Lee, the Maiden, the Wife and the Mother by Timothy Shay Arthur written in 1923 (click link to read or download)
Sunset Gleams From the City of the Mounds by Ethel Gray 1852 a devotional Aunt Fannie reads
The Wide, Wide World by Susan Warner 1850 free @ Other than Uncle Tom’s Cabin, this was perhaps the most widely circulated American story of its time.
and an old magazine Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine

If you haven’t read an O. Douglas yet what are you waiting for?  Several are free in ebook form online. Here and Here.

Two New Book Reports

After I read this I found out it is the second book in the Everett Hitch Trilogy. Appaloosa, the first book, was made into a movie. I’ll have to look that up.

This is the tale of two gun-men. But they aren’t like your average gun-men, they have high morals and integrity. Hitch went to West Point and is quite well read. Virgil was a lawman at one time.

Hitch takes a job in the new town of Resolution working for Amos Wolfson as a lookout at the Blackfoot Saloon. Wolfson owns the store, the hotel, pretty much most of the town. Eamon O’Malley owns the coppermine and a saloon across the street. Stark owns the lumber mill. Wolfson wants it all. The local ranchers owe their souls to his ‘company’ store and he is taking their land in payment for their debts. O’Malley brings in 2 gunmen of his own as he wants the whole town for himself too. There is no law and order in this town yet. As tensions build Virgil Cole, Hitches friend, arrives and stays to help Hitch. As Wolfson gets greedier and greedier he asks the men to do things they don’t believe are right. So we have the feud between O’Malley and Wolfson, and Wolfson and the ranchers. Oh and some Shoshoni Indians have escaped from the reservation! Lots of action in this western! I did enjoy it although it did have a lot of swearing which I don’t really like but my library doesn’t have a really good selection of audio books so what’s a girl to do?

The second book I finished is a cosy comfy read…

This lovely small book came all the way from Scotland to my mailbox! Thank you Katrina! I adore it! It’s a small old, old book and I love the feel of it in my hands and the smell of it as I read. O. Douglas (Anna Buchan) books are always sweet, feel good reads and I always enjoy them immensely. This one was a little different as it really is Anna Buchan’s autobiography thinly veiled as a piece of fiction. In this book she is Ann, the main character, who lives at ‘Dreams’, her lovely comfy home, with her old mother and two servants. One that has been with the family since she was a child. She spends evenings listening to her Mother’s tales of her life and reminiscing about her life growing up and writing it down to make a journal of her mother’s life. I loved it!

Check out Katrina’s review of it Here
and Here is another great review I came across of it the other day.

If you have yet to read an O. Douglas you really should! There are several free in digital form available online. Penny Plain is a wonderful one to start with!

The Proper Place by O. Douglas

Published in 1929 in Scotland

This was a wonderful book that I really hated to come to the end of! Set in Scotland. It is about the Rutherfurd family. They must leave their beautiful country house and all their lifelong friends on Tweedside after Sir Walter dies of a broken heart over losing his sons in the war. Lady Jane and optimistic, friendly daughter Nicole, and Barbara, the niece Lady Jane raised, settle in the little Fife sea town of Kirkmeikle. They purchase a lovely home called the Harbour House right on the water. They rapidly make a niche for themselves and feel that Kirkmeikle is their ‘proper place’. Full of wonderful characters, good deeds, a wee boy to warm your heart and a house that is one of the main characters! This book has a sequel to it, ‘A Day of Small Things‘.

Here are a few quotes from the book…

‘They have everything that any reasonable being could desire, a house where love is, good health, good books and a good fire.’

‘It was very nice, but oh! how glad I was to creep back to our own funny little house.’

‘That’s so like you, Nikky. She said ‘you never expect to receive evil things, but if they come you immediately discover in them some lurking good. That’s why you’re such a comfortable person to live with.’

The ladies do a lot of reading. I don’t know about you but, I love when they mention books they are reading in a book I am reading. I looked up several of them and they are all available on Project Gutenberg for free in digital format. Here they are…

Starvecrow Farm by Stanley John Weyman

1905 ‘That most dependable story teller, Mr. Stanley Weyman, has chosen for this romance not a French but a Georgian English setting. The absence of the frills of Latin chivalry does not, however, deprive the tale of the qualities which distinguish Mr. Weyman’s work from that of the herd of his imitators.’

The Good Comrade by Una Lucy Silberrad
(1907)Fiction- Addresses the issue of female emancipation and discusses differences between societies following the Church of England and social circles influenced by Calvinist teachings. Again, the narrator treats both sides ambivalently. The irony, however, rests more on the restrictive, Calvinist-inspired family the main character Julia works for during her stay in Holland.

The Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

1902  The Just So Stories for Little Children are a collection written by the British author Rudyard Kipling. Highly fantasized origin stories, especially for differences among animals, they are among Kipling’s best known works

Priorsford by O. Douglas

Every now and then I need to take a break from murder mysteries (and the daily news!) and O. Douglas’ books are just the ticket for that! Her books are humorous domestic dramas full of good, scrupulous people who “live on the bright side of life”.They are set in her homeland of Scotland and portray simple village life.

‘Priorsford’ was written in 1932 and is a return to characters introduced in her 1920 novel ‘Penny Plain’. It was a joy to revisit these wonderful people and their village of Priorsford.

To set the stage, in ‘Penny Plain’ we have sweet, selfless Jean Jardine, raising her 2 younger brothers and a ward, Mhor. They are not penniless, but there is not a lot to go around. Jean meets and marries Lord Bidborough and inherits a lot of money from a man she was kind to once and her life is changed forever. Will it change who Jean is? See my review of this book here

‘Priorsford’ starts 9 years later. Jean and Biddy live in England at his family estate, Mintern Abbas. They have 3 children. Jean has a busy life with her children, all the duties expected of her as Lady Bidborough and working with her assistant to utilize her inheritance to help people in need. Biddy has decided to go on a voyage with his close friend from the war to help him recuperate from a serious illness and it is decided that Jean and the children would return to her home in Priorsford for the duration of his absence. Catching up with Mrs. Hope, the Miss Watsons, Mrs. Jowett and all the others was great fun. Mhor’s escapades are always a treat. And we have a new puppy, Black Douglas, to fall in love with. In this novel we also have a bit of a mystery! Homes in Priorsford are being burgled! Isn’t that a delicious word? We say robbed in America, I much prefer burgled. You may find her books a little too saccharin for your taste, but if you need a break from all the murders, politics, and self focus world of today I recommend a trip to the world of O. Douglas.

Opening lines:
‘It was high summer in the Cotswold country, and the old house of Mintern Abbas dozed in the peace of the August afternoon.’

O. Douglas bibliography:

Olivia in India (1912)  ebook
The Setons (1917)  ebook
Penny Plain (1920) ebook
Ann and Her Mother (1922)
Pink Sugar (1924)
The Proper Place (1926)
Eliza For Common (1928)
The Day of Small Things (1930)
Priorsford (1932)
Taken By The Hand (1935)
Jane’s Parlour (1937)
People Like Ourselves (1938)
The House that is Our Own (1940)
Unforgettable, Unforgotten (1945)
Farewell to Priorsford (1950) Her autobiography written posthumously

I’ve read & own the ones in red and own the ones in purple, yet to read!

Info about O. Douglas here

Three of her novels are available in ebook format for free at Project Gutenberg

Peggy Ann

‘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!