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Amberwell by D. E. Stevenson
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Amberwell (1955)

by D. E. Stevenson

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In some ways Amberwell is a very sad book; in other ways it's quite happy. The tragedy of respectable selfishness in a family is not often a dramatic theme but when you see its effects on the lives of children, it gives you pause. D. E. Stevenson here starts the story of the Ayrtons, which continues in Summerhills.

I said the book was happy and sad; Stevenson's characters are also mixed. She manages to round them out with a little bit of darkness. When the idolized older brothers want a neglected sailor doll belonging to the younger girls, the girls of course give it up. But they always wonder about its fate. Turns out the boys destroyed it, using it for target practice. And yet the boys are "good guys," characters that you like and root for. And Aunt Beatrice, alternately a victim or a villain depending on how you look at her. Poor Anne. Poor Nell. I'm glad they get happy endings.

I'd read this again. Stevenson just carries you along in the life of the family and the events that shape their world. You're never on the edge of your seat, but you do find yourself reading to a very unconscionable hour because it's just so enjoyable. ( )
  atimco | Sep 20, 2018 |
I picked this up because I was to read a book published in the year I was born (1955) for the summer reading program at my library. I have loved D.E. Stevenson's work in the past and this one was no exception. Unlike modern fiction nothing to horrendous ever happens. It was a very relaxing comfortable read. Bad things do happen, but it all works out in the end. There is a gentle kindness to these books that I really enjoy. Don't pick it up if you dislike old fashioned cozy reads. But if you do this might top your list. I'm so grateful to Endeavor Press for bringing these wonderful older titles back into print. They kindly shared an advance copy with me in exchange for my honest review. ( )
  njcur | Jul 11, 2018 |
A delightful story of an eccentric family living in post WWI Scotland, with emphasis on the lives of the children as they grow into adulthood. It reminded me of several RF Delderfield novels, and is both entertaining and enthralling. Recommended. ( )
  fuzzi | Dec 30, 2016 |
Six-word review: Warm, easygoing story, but not saccharine.

Extended review:

Author Stevenson has a character in Amberwell (1955) say that she is "sick to death of books about piggies and pussies and darling little mousies." Sentimental treacle is not for her, and it's not for me either. That's why I'm instinctively wary of novels that just sound too damned pleasant.

Having read the earlier Miss Buncle's Book, however, I knew that Stevenson could manage a balance between the savory and the sweet. That's why, when I did need something light (in both senses) for a change, I followed recommendations and downloaded this one in a Kindle edition.

The note I wrote immediately upon completing it (and why in the world don't I do this all the time? it would make reviewing so much easier) says: "Definitely a comfort read. Not too ambitious, not especially literary, but quite lovely for what it is."

There's nothing I need to add. ( )
3 vote Meredy | Aug 16, 2016 |
Amberwell is the story of a family living in Scotland in the early part of the 20th century. The Ayrtons live at Amberwell, a sprawling house built by an ancestor in the 18th century. Anne, Nell, Roger, Constance, and Thomas are different as different could be, and they all grow up to pursue their own paths. Constance opts for a traditional marriage; Anne, told that she’ll end a spinster, runs off to marry a school teacher; and in WWII, Roger becomes a soldier, while Nell surprises everyone by turning into Amberwell’s capable chatelaine.

DE Stevenson’s books should really all be back in print (though I don't know who would buy them but me!). There’s a small revival of her books going on; Miss Buncle’s Book was reprinted by Persephone (and they’re re-doing Miss Buncle Married at some point next year) and Mrs. Tim of the Regiment was reprinted by the Bloomsbury Group. DE Stevenson wrote in a very accessible way, free of dramatics or histrionics. There’s a bit of drama in this book, but it never gets to that over-the-top point. There’s emotion and pathos in the relationships that these five siblings have with each other. Anne’s situation is especially moving, since she’s forced into a marriage that she ultimately doesn’t care for. The whole family is dysfunctional but you can almost understand why they behave the way they do, even Aunt Beatrice the frustrated spinster. This is a very subtle, understated and underrated book; I wish that more of DE Stevenson’s books would be republished because she’s truly a wonderful writer (and she of her out-of-print books are going for outrageous prices on ebay or Amazon Marketplace). ( )
3 vote Kasthu | Dec 16, 2010 |
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When the voices of children are heard on the green,
And laughing is heard on the hill.

--William Blake
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William Ayrton was born in Edinburgh in 1745.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The five young Ayrtons all grew up at Amberwell, preparing themselves to venture out into the world. Amberwell meant something different to each of them, but they all shared the idea that Amberwell was more than where they lived - it was part of them.… (more)

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