Life is not quite a fairytale for poor Viola. Left penniless, the young widow is forced to live with her late husband’s family in a joyless old house.
There’s Mr Wither, a tyrannical old miser; Mrs Wither, who thinks Viola is just a common shop girl; and two unlovely sisters-in-law, one of whom is in love with the chauffeur. Only the prospect of the charity ball can raise Viola’s spirits especially as Victor Spring, the local prince charming, will be there.
But Victor’s intentions towards our Cinderella are, in short, not quite honourable.
©1938 Stella Gibbons (P)2010 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
Stella Gibbons has always been famous as the author of "Cold Comfort Farm", but she wrote many other extremely readable novels, which, through the vagaries of fashion, have mostly fallen out of print. "Nightingale Wood", one of the best of these, was reprinted a year or two ago by Virago, and this audiobook version is simply a delight to listen to. Carole Boyd has a vivid narration technique, handles male and female voices effortlessly, and generally keeps the whole thing moving at an irresistible pace.
"Nightingale Wood" is a modern version of Cinderella, a comedy of manners, and a romance of sorts. Its heroine, Viola Withers, is a young widow who, having married above herself, finds herself living as a poor relation with her dreary in-laws in East Anglia, just prior to the Second World War. Across the valley, on the other side of Nightingale Wood, lives Prince Charming, a conventional, superficially dashing, and rather empty businessman called Victor Spring. From their first dance at the Infirmary Ball, Viola yearns to be with Victor, but the path of their true love is a distinctly bumpy one, and full of compromises and disappointments.
This is not a particularly deep book, but it is funny, and sometimes touching, and has the advantage, in 2010, of having period charm. It is also beautifully written, with a wonderful cast of supporting characters, including Viola's dreadful father-in-law, the two "Ugly Sister" characters (one of whom startles her family by having a love affair with her father's chauffeur, twelve years her junior), Victor's frightful fiancee, Phyllis, and his intellectually pretentious cousin Hetty who finally attains her dream of running away to live in an attic in Bloomsbury with a Communist poet.
Needless to say, there are happy endings all around. One can only wish that some enlightened publisher will see fit to bring more of this wonderful author's books back into print.
"Nightingale Wood" is as fine a novel as "Cold Comfort Farm," with the same attention to character development, lyrical language, and engaging plot.
Add to that mix Carole Boyd's attentive and spirited narration. She really is one of the better narrators that I have heard read an audiobook. Her rich, cadenced voice complements Gibbons' prose perfectly.
I listen to audiobooks as I take my dog for a daily walk, and when I downloaded "Nightingale Wood" we had to extend the length and frequency of our walks. Dog and owner are both very pleased.
I love mysteries in the style of P.D. James, Rex Stout, Elizabeth Peters, Dave Duncan, etc. I love sci fi written by Issac Asimov (the robot books), Douglas Adams, Jack McDevitt (Alex Benedict series) and Susan Collins. I love fantasy written by Terry Pratchett, and Kim Harrison. I love Kate Morton. I don't like graphic descriptions of violence.
Like a soothing cup of hot chocolate on a night when you just can't sleep. Not exciting but wonderfully told and everything just as it should be in the end. Carol Boyd is absolutely perfect as the narrator of the audio book. Her voice is as beautiful and as soothing as that hot chocolate, and as long as you can just listen to her, you won't worry about not sleeping.
trying to see the world with my ears
Light hearted novels that try to capture or satirize social change in Britain between the Wars can't touch this authentic period gem for entertainment value, social observation and, most of all, witty turn-of-phrases.
I usually like Carol Boyd's narration, and her vocal cords do amazing gymnastics here, but occasional dips to whisper level volume (especially in part one of the download) had me straining to catch words. This is not reallly a flaw in the narration but interfered with my enjoyment since, for me ,this was a novel for relaxation: one of those rare listens that has substance but no dark elements.
I'd download any other Gibbons' novels Audible offers.
This was a very enjoyable book set in an interesting place and era. I found the narration to be perfect for the story. A charming book that was lots of fun.
A funny funny fairy tale with depth. Satiric without meaness, just what I want in a comedy of manners. And sorry to politicize this, but why is a misanthrope (and misogynist) like Kingsley Amis considered a great satirist and Gibbons so sadly neglected. I'm now dying to read more of her work -- please Audible, more, maybe Cold Comfort Farm unabridged?
"Just got better and better"
At first I was distracted by the reader also being Linda Snell in The Archers. But she is a fantastic actress because although sometimes it is very Snell-like, for other characters, she uses new 'voices'. Excellent. I have no idea if the Essex accent she uses a lot is any good, I imagine Essex to sound more London but maybe in the 1930s it didn't...
The story is utter tosh, which is just what I wanted. Loads of fun, hints of pathos, sly in places and generally a very happy download.
This is a fascinating book because it is both more better than it needs to be and worse than it ought to be- which makes, in a way, for a more interesting listen than does a solid masterpiece.
The plot, as the previous reviewer says is, at the end of the day, pure tosh- but it's interesting tosh, and the permutations it has to go through are quite gripping, and there was a point about half-way through when I thought that Stella Gibbons would have to be very clever to bring it all to a satisfactory conclusion.
Like all good British comedy it's about human misery and here Gibbons lightly but firmly lays it on with a trowel- each of the characters has their separate lonely agony and the way they at crucial moments fail to connect is really quite heart-wrenching- In a way many of the characters are fleshed out better than the story deserves.
But it all works out in the end... too well- lacking a certain subtlety towards the conclusion...
The other bad point is that it's often too long winded and Gibbons reiterates characters thought patterns/ motivations too often and with too much repetition. The plot could also have been tightened up in places.
But enjoyable stuff.
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