Poor Elfrida Jane.
A struggling actress with barely more than a walk-on part in a play that is doomed to fold, renting a small room in a boarding house from a landlady who likes to know everything going on with her boarders, in love with a well-known actor who barely knows she is alive, and recovering from the loss of her mother (whom, from the sounds of things, was her only companion for most of her life).
But, wait. The attic-room isn’t too bad:
“It was an attic-room, but it had a good window and was bright and comfortable. Elfrida took off her coat and hat and lay down on the bed. She was often tired nowadays – in fact she was tired all the time. Presently she heard the attic stairs creaking, as they always did beneath their owner’s weight.”
Who could possibly be coming to see poor Elfrida Jane? why, her landlady, of course!
“…now a widow, nearing fifty….She was short and fat with improbably golden hair, tightly permed, and her pink-and-white complexion came out of jars and boxes….but in spite of her flamboyant appearance she had an extremely tender heart.
She knocked gently upon Elfrida’s door and, on being invited to enter, came in and sat on the end of the bed. “I just wondered,” she said breathlessly (the stairs made her puff like an old-fashioned steam engine), “I just – wondered if you saw – that lawyer.”
Thanks to Miss Martineau (the landlady), Elfrida’s life is about to change.
D.E. Stevenson has penned a novel that, although a bit old-fashioned in sentiment and language, is sure to delight. It has the elements of scorned love, loss, the recovery from poverty, and is the rags-to-riches type of novel that although for most of us, is quite improbable, is nonetheless a delight to read about in someone else’s life. Her characterization as always is down-to-earth and real with little vignettes stuck in here and there that makes one wonder how the author found her inspirations:
“It had always amused Elfrida to watch people – and wonder about them – and she had been “out of the world” for so long that it was very entertaining indeed. She saw what was obviously a honeymoon couple wander past, so absorbed in one another that they had no eyes for anyone or anything else; two young men in tennis kit with racquets under their arms hurried by, talking earnestly. There was a young mother with a child of about five-years-old who wanted to pick some roses and screamed when her mother would not let her.
Presently an elderly gentleman and a beautifully-dressed lady with blue hair came and sat down on the seat beside Elfrida; they were in the mddle of a serious conversation.
“She’s most unsuitable,” declared the lady.
“She’s a pretty creature,” objected the gentleman.
“She uses cheap scent.”
(Somehow I am missing it, but apparently it is not enough to be pretty in order to marry; one must never use ‘cheap scent’!)
There is the all-but-in-name-only poor little orphan, two possible love interests, an old house set on a cliff, a scare about a lost will and who is the rightful heir (a tactic Stevenson uses in some of her other novels), and the lovable cook and her handyman-husband, Mr. and Mrs. Chowne.
Will poor Elfrida Jane find happiness in the house on the cliff? read it and see. A great comfort read, entertaining, light, and on-the-mark with insights on human nature. Like most of her novels, Stevenson’s writing will take away the winter doldrums.