Sally's Reviews > The Morning Gift

The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson
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it was amazing
bookshelves: ya-all-grown-up, austria, london, ww2, refugees, romance, university, science, holocaust, eva-ibbotson

*sob* this is the last Eva Ibbotson that I had on my shelf! I left it until last as it was the longest... oh dear, I've forgotten the name of the psychoanalyst now, but she would believe that my leaving this until last was intuitive, as I knew that it would be the best of the lot.

Well, perhaps second-best, after The Secret Countess, but that I read back in Melbourne. Of the lot I have here, counting only these prettily packaged older-YA-Picadors, it just edges out A Company of Swans to be my favourite. (All up, I give first place to Journey to the River Sea - but that's of the younger set than these lovely, frothy romances.)

After reading a lot of Eva Ibbotson, one does begin to notice that her books are very similar... one might even say formulaic. Her heroines are all quite similar to one another - but this is not a bad thing. Her formula is a tried and true one, each story as delightful as the last! It doesn't matter that one girl is reminiscent of another. In fact, it adds to the joy a little. Or at least I find that to be so.

Ruth is beautiful, independent, intelligent, talented, and talks a lot. Talking a lot seems to be a thing with a lot of Eva Ibbotson's girls. They will ramble off in the most delightful of tangents when telling a story, and always come up with the most random thoughts, analogies and examples that the person to whom they are talking knows absolutely NOTHING of. Her girls seem to always forget that not everyone else is in their head, following their thought pattern, remembering their memories.

One of the most delightful quotes from all her books has to be this one, from Ruth to Frances: "Would you like me to stop talking? Because I can. I have to concentrate, but it's possible."

I also particularly enjoyed "...a large, midnight-blue Crossley tourer with brass lamps and a deep horn which recalled, faintly, the motoring activities of the redoubtable Mr. Toad" - having recently read The Wind in the Willows myself that was a fun gem! And having seen the film The King's Speech, I was also able to fully appreciate "the shy king and his stammer".

And "She wants to be alone." "Like Greta Garbo?" really made me giggle!

I loved the setting, the time and place - how modern it suddenly felt compared to the last couple I've read. What was also amazing to me was how real I *knew* it was... the area that the Bergers et al moved to in London is only one stop down the tube from where two friends of mine live: which is a very Jewish area. That really was where a lot of refugees ended up. (Incidentally, I left the book with that friend - I finished it while at her place and while I adored it, it was too heavy for me to want to cart around all day and then bring back to Swansea again. I hope she likes it, and I do have the option of telling her I'll pick it up next time I'm in London anyway, if I decide I need to keep it and take it back home with me.)

I love how I didn't have to worry about the puppy which was almost lost at sea - just as you know that Quin and Ruth are going to fall in love and thwart their carefully made plans, you also KNOW that Eva Ibbotson would never dare to kill a puppy!

You also KNOW that when he buys the emeralds (and you know they will be emeralds before he does, because of the glass on the beach) that she is going to assume it's her Morgengabe and thus the major Conflict of the novel will be stirred into motion. But this happens with about 70 pages to go - in a 500+ page book. That's another thing that is very reliable about Eva Ibbotson. She is consistent with miscommunications between her characters, but she is also consistent with these never lasting for too long. She doesn't make them drag on for half the book, making the reader frustrated at how they don't just stop being silly and TALK IT OVER. This one in fact went on for perhaps the longest, yet it was still short compared to some other books!

By the way, I love the sound of the word Schmarrn. Also, I wonder how much of this book was autobiographical - perhaps a fictionalised account of part of Eva Ibbotson's own life? After all, her family also fled Vienna for London when the Nazis came to power. And she studied animal physiology at university, so I daresay a lot of the science mentioned in this book was from her own, actual field of interest.

It was amazing how the examination experience described was exactly like our uni exams, 60 years on. The invigilators, the being escorted to the bathroom...

There were SO many characters in this book, and they were all so vividly described. I loved Mrs. Weiss and her dangerous hook, "I buy you a cake?" and was gleeful when von Hofmann finally was able to say Schweinehund in an anti-Nazi film.

This was also the second book to mention mangelwurzels. I feel I must google them now.

I really loved how Eva Ibbotson tricked me as well... it was so obvious that Ruth was not going to sail with Heini - but then we fade to black with her on the boat, and when war breaks out you hear she has been five weeks in America. So you assume that you were wrong, that she DID sail and now she has to somehow be fetched home, or found by Quin while abroad. And then it turns out she didn't sail, but no one knows (except for Heini, obviously)! I loved that little twist, I fell for it so smoothly.

I love how she and Frances connected so nicely as well. And Uncle Mishak. The story is just so well-rounded for all, so beautifully done. The ending, with Paul Ziller and his new quartet, and the ghost of Biberstein playing along... that actually made me tear up a little.

The only slight complaint I might have is that the dreadful Verena is not mentioned in the epilogue. We are told before that she is to marry poor Kenneth, but I would have liked a bit of a follow-up. I was sad that Huw died, but it was a realistic addition to the round-up. This book was not only froth and romance and mistakes in communication. There was Hitler, there was Biberstein's death, there was having to flee the Nazis, Berger losing his position, the house being vandalised, being poor refugees in London, Heini being in a camp (though at least not one like Oranienburg or Dachau, as Ruth had imagined!), Pilly's poor chap being lost as well.

Writing this has made me want to read the book again now! I think I'll have to fetch it back from Manu one day, after all... it also really makes me want to visit Vienna, even more than I already did!

Lastly, this is lovely:

When angels sing for God they sing Bach, but when they sing for pleasure they sing Mozart, and God eavesdrops.
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Reading Progress

February 4, 2010 – Shelved
November 12, 2011 – Started Reading
November 13, 2011 –
page 89
November 14, 2011 –
page 138
November 14, 2011 –
page 157
November 16, 2011 –
page 189
November 18, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Muphyn Oh, you gave it 5 stars too!! :D Wasn't it fabulous, such a sweet story! :D

Sally It was so wonderful and gorgeous! Worth the wait indeed :)

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