February 13, 2012

The Setons

I came across a recommendation on Ravelry for a series of books, the Scottish novels written by O. Douglas.  The author has a droll way of sketching characters through dialogue.  Here's a knitting-related excerpt, where a mother talks about her trouble getting a good nurse for her daughter:
They were all nice women, but somehow they just didn't suit.  The first one had an awful memory.  No, she didn't forget things, it was the other way.  She was a good careful nurse, but she could say pages of poetry off by heart, and she did it through the night to soothe Phemie like.  She would get Phemie all comfortable, and then she'd turn out the light, and sit down by the fire with her knitting, and begin something about 'The stag at eve had drunk its fill,' and so on and on and on.  She meant well, but who would put up with that?  D'you know, that stag was fair getting on Phemie's nerves, so we had to make an excuse and get her away.
-O. Douglas, The Setons, 1917 
I could have picked a better excerpt, perhaps.  There's the knitting that a woman takes to work on when she goes to Shakespeare readings.  The stocking the heroine knits while the hero tries to court her and the stitch she drops when flustered.  A down-to-earth mother who knits while her pretentious daughter does fancy work.  The mother who copes with her son's enlistment by knitting socks and the "frenzy of knitting into which the women threw themselves, thankful to find something that would at least occupy their hands" in August, 1914.

Douglas dresses the heroine in "a soft blue homespun coat and skirt, and a hat of the same shade crushed down on her hair," but of course homespun is not necessarily the same as handspun and there is no mention of a spinning wheel in the house.

Many chapters of The Setons start with a quote from a Shakespearian comedy.  Every so often in the narrative a Biblical phrase or allusion pops in, as with this description of a guest who is difficult to please, "You stay her with apples and she prattles of nectarines."  Cats and sausage rolls appear in the story too.  It's my sort of book, even if I did cry in places.  I know it's commonplace to say this, but Ravelry is good for letting you run across interesting things.

Then there is this quote from Penny Plain: "It is wonderful how much news there is when people write every other day; if they wait for a month there is nothing that seems worth telling."  A true thing, of correspondence and of blogs.


  1. Found your blot on my kindle fire while recovering from yesterdays foot surgery. Was able to download the Sextons free. Thanks for the recommendation. Look forward to reading it between snoozes.

  2. you're welcome. Get well soon!


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