Antonia and her sister Louise grow up as thick as thieves, in a world apart from their detached parents. Tonia is a dreamer, slipping away into her "listening place" when life is becoming too much for her. When the more adventurous Lou elopes, Tonia is left on her own.
Hope comes in the form of Mr Norman, a caring older man who teaches Tonia how to live for herself. They marry and move to London, but when tragedy strikes Tonia is left to build her own life. She returns to Scotland, in search of a new happiness - although there are some obstacles in her way....
©1944 D. E. Stevenson (P)2013 Soundings
I am always delighted when I discover another of D. E. Stevenson's novels has been made available in audiobook format from Audible. And Listening Valley is a delightful companion piece to Celia's House, which has been available for some time. Not really a sequel, but toward the end of Listening Valley the action moves to the same general location as Celia's House, and we get an update on some of the characters from that book.
In Listening Valley, we start in Edinburgh with young sisters, Antonia/Tonia and Louise/Lou. Their parents are busy with business and bridge, allowing Tonia and Lou to be largely raised by Nannie. After a short time in a school for very young children, the sisters are educated at home, and in a very isolated way, not knowing other children, not going to parties, not having friends. They are fascinated by "the house with the high wall" and the beautiful lady who lives there, and actually visit and have Tea there one day when Nannie is away and their mother isn't paying attention. They meet Jack, the young adult son of the "picture lady", who is divorced and thus someone that their parents won't recognize socially even though they knew each other in the past.
Tonia, the younger, is very shy and her isolated childhood makes this worse. When the 18 year old Lou re-introduces them to the "picture lady" and her family, Lou falls in love with Jack, and elopes, leaving Tonia alone and friendless.
How Tonia finds someone that changes her life is one major factor in this book. She then travels, with a honeymoon in India to visit Lou and Jack followed by a return to London where she and her husband do a unique sort of war work.
As a very young widow near the end of the war, Tonia goes to a small town in Scotland to live in a "hand made house" left her by Nannie, and learns yet another sort of life. She meets Celia (from Celia's House) and learns that their great aunts had been close friends, and she and Celia can build their friendship on roots 100 years old. She meets several young airmen from a nearby base and eventually learns that love can come in more than one form.
All of the locations are evocatively described, making this reader feel like she has been traveling each time she listens. Especially the locations in Scotland. I have been to the locations in Edinburgh and the Scottish boarder area that inspired the locations in the books, and walking the same streets as Tonia and Lou can provide a real thrill.
I am a new fan of the long-established DE Stevenson, and this offering is one of her best as far as main characters go. The development of Tonia -- from her beginnings as a shy school girl into her young adulthood -- is believable and satisfying.
The story itself is a bit choppy, and seems like two stories mushed together. It's either that the WW II aspect of the novel that is plunked into place after the middle, or the school days are glued on to the beginning -- I can't decide. Despite this bit of a disconnect, the story held my interest, overall, and Tonia is a thoroughly decent character with a pure heart.
The narration is smooth as silk and unwinds effortlessly. It's a good bedtime listen, from both content (nothing too rousing) and narration.
While characters and settings are used repeatedly in Stevenson's works, this book functions as a stand-alone novel.
love to read and love audio books!Favorite authors: Marcia Willett,Nevil Shute,Mary Stewart,and Jacqueline Winspear. I could go on and on but wont bore you! I belong to a book group and we often" Listen" to the books we have selected for the month while using a paper copy for the discussion notes. It really enhances the quality of the story.
I read this book years ago and absolutely loved the audio version.The narration is perfect
with a wonderful Scottish lilt. Its like listening to an old classic movie.
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