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Listening Valley by D.E. Stevenson

When someone states that a book is their favorite book of all, especially when that someone is Jen Robinson, I am so gonna pick up that book. I mean, I have trouble even thinking about making a top ten list of favorite books of all. Break it down into different genres, and perhaps I could start whittling it down. Maybe. In the meantime, I truly would like to have read as many of the important-to-people, comfort-read books as I can. I like the fellow feeling it engenders. Plus, it makes me branch out and I invariably find little gems I otherwise would not have.

Listening Valley takes place in Scotland just prior to World War II. Tonia and her sister Lou grow up thick as thieves in a world apart from their extremely detached parents and the other kids in town. Tonia particularly is dreamier and more sensitive than the gregarious Lou. Whenever things become too much, she retreats to that quiet and calm place in her mind she dubs Listening Valley. There she can suss things out on her own time and make sense of them. When Lou runs off to get married at 18, Tonia is left alone, unhappy, and unsure of who she is and what she wants to be. When offered independence and the opportunity to leave her parents' home, she makes a difficult command decision and accepts an offer of marriage from a wealthy, but kindly older man. Soon Tonia finds herself in London amidst bombings and rationing and her life is suddenly filled with purpose as it had never been before. This time is not to last, however, and Tonia eventually finds herself back in Scotland attempting to refashion her life once more.

Above all, this is a sweet story about life and growing up, leaving home, and finding it again. I enjoyed watching Tonia become more at ease in her own skin over the years, so much so that she is able to not only take care of herself but others as well. These others include the funny and endearing inhabitants of Ryddelton as well as the boys of the RAF who congregate at Tonia's. Tonia herself is so very fragile in the beginning, but by the end I felt like she would be quite all right, come what may. That she was, indeed, someone who would "go out with you in any weather." That kind of transformation was gratifying to watch and the story as a whole both pleasant and touching. Thanks for the recommendation, Jen. This book is easy to love.

Comments

  1. I'm really touched that you took the trouble to track this book down, Angie. It definitely engenders "fellow feeling" for me. I'm so glad that you liked it! It's really impossible for me to be objective about this book, so it's heartening to see someone else come across it as a modern-day adult, and still appreciate it. I'm going to link to your review in my original review, so that others can get that dual perspective. Thanks for a lovely start to my morning.

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  2. I'm so glad I could help start your day on a happy note. I was tickled that my library had it and I thoroughly enjoyed it. What a lovely (and appropriate) ending.

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  3. I too am a D.E. Stevenson fan! The best part about liking her books is that there are so many of them. My favorite, at the moment, is The Blue Sapphire.

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  4. Yeah, the number of books is definitely comforting, Charlotte. I also like the way many of the books are interconnected. A major character in one will be a minor character in another, etc. This lets you get a window on what happened next with a character, even after the book is finished. And it makes you feel, when you read multiple books, like you've really entered a universe.

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  5. See, I definitely need to pick up more Stevensons as I adore that about L'Engle's books.

    Charlotte, this is fun to find other Stevenson fans. I don't think I'd ever have come across her without Jen's recommendation.

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  6. Exactly! Stevenson is similar to L'Engle that way, and I think that it's SO fun.

    Most libraries have at least a few Stevensons. You might also try the large print section - there are usually a couple there.

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  7. Good idea. I have found several things in large print that I couldn't find otherwise.

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  8. This book has haunted me for many years. I read it when I was a preteen. Many years later, I still have poignant memories of Tonia and Lou and their love for chocolate eclairs, the RAF and Celia... I loved it and hope to track it down too. A real keepsake.

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