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Eliza for Common by O. Douglas

Eliza for Common (1928)

by O. Douglas

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‘Her book was a long tranquil, domestic story, the kind one can sink into, and she felt as if she had been sitting there from the beginning of time.’ Eliza Laidlaw is a young girl growing up in the 1920s, in her father and mother’s Glasgow manse. ‘Here you are,' her mother says, ‘almost seventeen years of age, nearly finished with school, and the only prize you ever got was for needlework – and yet at home you’re a regular bookworm. I can’t understand it.’

This is Eliza’s maturing; adoring her older, clever brother Jim going to Oxford and teased by her raucous younger brothers Rob and Geordie. ‘Spinsters are hungry,’ he said. ‘Here’s you, Eliza, hungry like a wolf!’ Loving but knowing she must eventually leave that home: ‘just the fire burning brightly, and the sun shining on a pot of daffodils even the thought that there is raspberry jam for tea. Mother laughs, or Mrs Service say something unexpectedly funny ... and books mean more -.’ She stopped and then said solemnly, ‘I don’t think I could have got through without Shakespeare.’ Very gently she spreads her wings and escapes from Glasgow and her family.

Of course, this is middle-brow fiction and Eliza discusses just such literature with a dinner guest one evening. ‘I gave up trying to be pleasant then, and said in an irritating, prim voice that nobody should write anything that could not be read aloud! Then he got rude and said he supposed I only read Rosa Nouchette Carey. I said, yes, I liked Rosa and cold baths, and Wrights coal-tar soap.’ Katie laughed. ‘Everything that he didn’t, in fact?’ Don’t be surprised that there’s a very happy and satisfying ending because it wouldn’t be O. Douglas without one.
  Sarahursula | Aug 5, 2013 |
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Jim Laidlaw swung on the piano-stool in the drawing-room of Blinkbonny, Pollok Road, Glasgow, picking out tunes from Songs of the North with one finger.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The domestic chronicles of a minister's family that bears a remarkable resemblance to the Buchans', Eliza for Common is set in Glasgow just after the Great War.

As Eliza grows up she longs for beauty and excitement; with the help of her older brother Jim, who shows her Oxford, Paris and Switzerland, she emerges from the confines of being a daughter of the manse and finds her own way in the world.
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