Retro Reads discussion

Vittoria Cottage (Dering Family, #1)
This topic is about Vittoria Cottage
22 views
Group Reads > Vittoria Cottage Aug. 2020 Chaps. 1-19

Comments Showing 1-50 of 82 (82 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1221 comments Mod
Welcome to our August group read! Please remember to tag spoilers.


Barb in Maryland | 485 comments I will be reading this on my laptop--not a favorite way to read, as it tires my eyes. I've not read this before, so I am looking forward to it.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1221 comments Mod
I downloaded it last week, and plan to read a couple of chapters tonight.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 677 comments Got my copy a few days ago. Will start in a couple of days after I finish something else.


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 1330 comments Reading the kindle book on my iPad, and enjoying the audiobook on Scribd, as well! I’m finding Caroline absolutely delightful - what a wonderful character!


Emilia Barnes | 23 comments I'm on chapter six and am enjoying the mellow feel of it so far.


Carolien (carolien_s) | 110 comments I'm enjoying this as a respite from the reality of lockdown and quite a few heavier books in recent weeks.


Barb in Maryland | 485 comments Oh, this is so soothing. I am really liking Caroline and I am already charmed by Mr Shepperton. However, I suspect that Leda will not be one of my favorite people.

I see that this was written in 1949. I knew it was set after WWII, but wasn't quite sure how much after.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1221 comments Mod
I meant to read just a couple of chapters last night and had to force myself to put it down when I got to chapter 11. 😁 DES does a great job drawing these characters and their faults and foibles.

I think it’s set about the time it was written, in the later 40s.


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1221 comments Mod
I was totally cheering Harriet on in chapter 10!


Barb in Maryland | 485 comments Harriet was wonderful in Chapter 10!

I really like the author's mix of day to day life as it is lived and the philosophical musings about life, happiness, and so on. DES is quite skilled at going from the small, intimate picture to the bigger, societal picture and back again.


message 12: by Susan in NC (last edited Aug 02, 2020 06:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 1330 comments Thank you, Barb - you put it perfectly! I’m highlighting all these wonderful lines in kindle like a loon, I’ll never be able to get them all into a review, and you’ve summed it up beautifully.

Can I just say, Leda is a stinker, and I think Arnold probably was, too? I was so glad Harriet told her niece what-for, it was long overdue!


Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1221 comments Mod
I’m really glad Arnold was gone before the story really started. Poor Caroline.


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 1330 comments Yes, I would not want to waste precious reading time on Arnold, he’s sounds like quite a downer!


Barb in Maryland | 485 comments But I also feel sorry for Leda. To be be so constantly disappointed in/critical of almost everything just has to erode your soul.


Emilia Barnes | 23 comments Susan in NC wrote: "Yes, I would not want to waste precious reading time on Arnold, he’s sounds like quite a downer!"

Was anybody else surprised by how Caroline and Arnold got married? It was positively gothic I thought (view spoiler) - something I expect from a century before not in relatively modern times.

I was also disgusted with them about the financial arrangement of the marriage, and how Arnold settled it all. Ugh!


message 17: by Abigail (last edited Aug 03, 2020 06:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 677 comments I don't think I've gotten to the reasons for the marriage yet, unless I have overlooked it, though Caroline seems like one of the few people who would put up with him!

Checked on the "season of mist and mellow fruitfulness" quote and it is from Keats's "Ode to Autumn," here: https://poets.org/poem/autumn. Quite appropriate to Caroline, I think, celebrating what she still has rather than what she has lost.

I like how Stevenson coneys character and bigger emotions elliptically: like Caroline learning as she aged to take pleasure in little things, the turn of the seasons, working in her garden, a well-ironed piece of clothing. All she had to turn to throughout an unhappy marriage.

And I liked the tactful way she helped Comfort when Comfort needed comforting.

I'm guessing that the fact The she mostly refers to Caroline as Caroline instead of Mrs. Dering indicates that she is still young enough to have a "story" ahead of her--makes me happy to think that she hasn't entirely sunk into being a parent!


message 18: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1946 comments Barb in Maryland wrote: "But I also feel sorry for Leda. To be be so constantly disappointed in/critical of almost everything just has to erode your soul."

When Leda is howling, Caroline puts her finger on the pulse of that type of personality: "It was no good offering sympathy or trying to reason with Leda". There are so many people who demand sympathy and then get angry when it's offered - prickly to the extreme because of their selfishness and determined to have their own way at any cost. When Harriet says to Leda, "My goodness! I shouldn't like to be you!", Leda is surprised, but her egotism isn't going to let her understand why. How much blame does Caroline get for not knocking sense into Leda's head, I wonder...


message 19: by Kavan (last edited Aug 03, 2020 01:52PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kavan | 85 comments I don't think Caroline and Arnold's marriage was that unusual in that era. The more period books I read the more I recognize British social mores were very umm British. Older guys routinely marry much younger women and no one seems to find it odd.

As late as what 1981 the press and public swooned over Diana Spencer marrying a mid-30's bachelor who'd dated a string of girls. Even in that era very few upper class British girls went to university. The expectation was they'd marry and then they were their husband's responsibility.

And certainly before WWII, British girls were expected to marry very early. For that period, Caroline and Arnold's relationship was probably the norm rather than the exception. They met, spent a brief time together, then he went to speak to the parents. Hardly romantic but typical.

I tend to think to Arnold may have had some mental problems. Caroline seems to present him as a just a bit of a grump, but from Harriet's comments it seems far worse. And I can imagine if he did having a relentlessly cheerful wife probably did him absolutely no favors. I think it was one of those marriages where both parties needed someone totally different-but divorce would have been unthinkable in that era.

Caroline is lovely but I'm not sold she's the maternal sort at all. She seems clueless what to do with her daughters. I think that too happens. A woman is perfectly maternal and lovely to the people around her like comfort and the community but seems clueless about what's going on at home.


Barb in Maryland | 485 comments Caroline and her son James have a fantastic bond, as he has a personality/worldview that meshes with hers. Which, in turn, makes Leda's difficult personality that much harder for Caroline to cope with. I don't think we see enough of Bobbie to get a good feel for her beyond the fact that she's definitely easier to get along with than Leda!


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 1330 comments Barb in Maryland wrote: "But I also feel sorry for Leda. To be be so constantly disappointed in/critical of almost everything just has to erode your soul."

And I think you’d be lonely, as people might not want to be around you much...


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 1330 comments Emilia wrote: "Susan in NC wrote: "Yes, I would not want to waste precious reading time on Arnold, he’s sounds like quite a downer!"

Was anybody else surprised by how Caroline and Arnold got married? It was posi..."


Yes, I thought it seemed quite Victorian, kind of a shock - and no adjustment to the financial arrangements! I was chilled by this:

...Arnold Dering agreed. He had plenty of money and preferred that his wife should have none of her own. He felt safer.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 677 comments (I'm at chapter 11) Leda does seem an awful brat, and marrying whatsisname is bound to make her unhappier. It's so awful how women are (were? I can hope) brought up not to think beyond getting married, and so little said about being married.

I grew up in a somewhat similar situation, and was brought up by a grandmother who was, of course, imbued with the ideas of an older generation. A lot of effort went into grooming me for marriage, specifically marriage to an older man with money, and I was regarded as a bit of a failure when I didn't attract such a man. But at least I wasn't forced into anything! And my single state was finally accepted when I reached 35.

It was much harder in the 1940s when there were far fewer jobs considered acceptable for women, with added pressure for females to give up jobs to make way for the men returning from war. So I can't entirely blame Leda for her limited perspective, but oh! She is certainly tiresome about it.

Caroline is showing a bit more spirit as a parent than I expected, but she doesn't follow through on her tart words with actions.

I was surprised by Mr. Shepperton's (partial) revelation about what led to his being in the village, but suppose I shouldn't have been. Feel sad about his son, who was probably sent out of London during the war to a foster family, then his mother dies, and he's sent out of the country while his father licks his wounds! How's that going to scar his life?


Jackie | 365 comments I've started this evening and am up through chapter seven. I'm really angry at the rude way Leda and her boyfriend don't even listen to Caroline: such a lack of respect!


Emilia Barnes | 23 comments Kavan wrote: "I tend to think to Arnold may have had some mental problems. Caroline seems to present him as a just a bit of a grump, but from Harriet's comments it seems far worse. And I can imagine if he did having a relentlessly cheerful wife probably did him absolutely no favors. I think it was one of those marriages where both parties needed someone totally different-but divorce would have been unthinkable in that era."

I think this is a good point actually - I mean even if Arnold doesn't have mental problems, at the very least he has a trying personality (and so does his daughter Leda), and one thing I thought was that it is as inescapable as a mental disorder. Your personality is your personality. You can only work on it that much, a lot of it is just what you and others have to live with.

I do agree (and I think it's mentioned in the book) that a different wife would have done him good. Caroline was too young and obedient and obliging for him, so that she offered no check to his temperament. And that of course translates to Leda too, because as a parent she should really put a check to her worst outbursts, but she's not a great parent, I think.

Like, even her partiality for James is a little strange, surely. If you were her kid, you'd probably feel that she likes James the best and you are only an afterthought.


Emilia Barnes | 23 comments Abigail wrote: "I grew up in a somewhat similar situation, and was brought up by a grandmother who was, of course, imbued with the ideas of an older generation. A lot of effort went into grooming me for marriage, specifically marriage to an older man with money, and I was regarded as a bit of a failure when I didn't attract such a man. But at least I wasn't forced into anything! And my single state was finally accepted when I reached 35.

It was much harder in the 1940s when there were far fewer jobs considered acceptable for women, with added pressure for females to give up jobs to make way for the men returning from war. So I can't entirely blame Leda for her limited perspective, but oh! She is certainly tiresome about it.
"


Thank you for that perspective! As someone who grew up in a pretty patriarchal country in the 80s/90s, it was taken as a given that I would marry, but there was no grooming or anything like that. (Although my grandmother did sit me down once when I was a teenager and started reading up on feminism to beg me to marry a man one day - that was weird).


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 677 comments Arnold does seem to have been a bit depressive, and perhaps we are to see a contrast between his endless dwelling on negativity and Mr. Shepperton's reluctance to say much about his terrible loss.

I'm not so surprised by her favoring her son--that was such a normal thing, to see the young scion as more important than any mere girls. And he seems, at least in Caroline's eyes, the one most temperamentally compatible with her. (I haven't read far enough to have met him yet.)

I was touched and saddened by this line about her marriage: "She had sunk her whole personality to be Arnold's wife, but even that was not enough, he was still unsatisfied . . . he took everything and still wanted more." So eloquent of an unequal world. What chance did a very young woman have in such a marriage? Her husband seems never to have thought of her, or to have thought of her only as a burden keeping him from the life of roving he thought he wanted--when in fact his discontent preceded his marriage and nothing would change it. I am inclined to dismiss the next line: "Sometimes Caroline had felt that a woman of stronger, tougher fibre might have made a better wife for Arnold, a woman who could have stood up to him and remained a whole person." I think such a marriage would only have led to anger and resentment on both sides.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 677 comments Emilia wrote, "Although my grandmother did sit me down once when I was a teenager and started reading up on feminism to beg me to marry a man one day" . . .

Haha, yes, my grandmother carried those contradictions in her as well! She had very progressive views to go along with her old-fashioned assumptions. Basically the message I got was that I should be a headstrong, willful, independent girl right up until the man came along who could control me--hence her favoring an older man--and then I should be happy to submit. Sadly (or not), I internalized the first part of the message but never the second. It must have been a very confusing, contradictory world for pre-1970s feminists! Aiyiyi, the cognitive dissonance!


message 29: by Jackie (last edited Aug 04, 2020 06:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jackie | 365 comments I am up to chapter 17 and enjoying the re-read SO much! Somehow, knowing what's going to happen makes it even better. I guess because it's not a novel where the plot is more important than relationships among the characters.

I love what you said about Caroline's marriage, Abigail, and agree he would have been unhappy no matter who he married.

I think I will wait to comment more and then do it in the spoiler thread, just in case.

Abigail, your posts say you "rated it one star" ???


Jackie | 365 comments I really like the author's mix of day to day life as it is lived and the philosophical musings about life, happiness, and so on. DES is quite skilled at going from the small, intimate picture to the bigger, societal picture and back again.

this, exactly! thank you Barb in Maryland.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 677 comments Jackie, maybe a different Abigail? I have not read this book before and therefore have not rated it (though sometimes when I'm working on my iPad things jump around and Goodreads thinks I clicked something I didn't intend to). No rating yet but I am loving it! I feel Stevenson does better with an older heroine--sometimes her ingenues feel a little shallow to me, or maybe I'm just conflating callow and shallow.


message 32: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1946 comments Abigail wrote: "Jackie, maybe a different Abigail? I have not read this book before and therefore have not rated it (though sometimes when I'm working on my iPad things jump around and Goodreads thinks I clicked s..."

Nope, it shows up as a one star when you comment, Abigail! I noticed it, too, so just checked it!


message 33: by Karlyne (last edited Aug 04, 2020 11:10AM) (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1946 comments Abigail wrote: "Arnold does seem to have been a bit depressive, and perhaps we are to see a contrast between his endless dwelling on negativity and Mr. Shepperton's reluctance to say much about his terrible loss.
..."


I think there's more than just favoring a son or even her firstborn in Caroline's mind and heart. Leda's temperament, which was so unfortunately, and obviously (in the sense of being smacked upside the head with it) very like her father's, was alien to Caroline's. Some people, even when they're your own children, are harder to love than others. It probably boils down to understanding why people do what they do (and why they won't change, haha). We can love without understanding, but it's harder and requires a lot more effort

I just thought, too, that Leda isn't really looking for love, let alone understanding, from her mother. She wants her mother's obedience,
as a servant, but not more.


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 1330 comments Emilia wrote: "Kavan wrote: "I tend to think to Arnold may have had some mental problems. Caroline seems to present him as a just a bit of a grump, but from Harriet's comments it seems far worse. And I can imagin..."

Very good points about Caroline not being the best wife for Arnold, and in turn, mother to Leda. As you say, personality is what it is, and you or your parents can only do so much to mold you; I know I have family members I’ve loved and cared about, but would prefer to do so at a distance! Sad, but true.


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 1330 comments Abigail wrote: "Arnold does seem to have been a bit depressive, and perhaps we are to see a contrast between his endless dwelling on negativity and Mr. Shepperton's reluctance to say much about his terrible loss.
..."


Good point - I don’t know that Arnold would have appreciated a wife of “tougher fibre”.


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 1330 comments Karlyne wrote: "Abigail wrote: "Jackie, maybe a different Abigail? I have not read this book before and therefore have not rated it (though sometimes when I'm working on my iPad things jump around and Goodreads th..."

Yes, I see it too, next to your name.


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 1330 comments Karlyne wrote: "Abigail wrote: "Arnold does seem to have been a bit depressive, and perhaps we are to see a contrast between his endless dwelling on negativity and Mr. Shepperton's reluctance to say much about his..."

I agree, mother is there for her convenience, nothing more.


message 38: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1946 comments I'll bet we've all known couples where our first and continuing thought of them is, "Why are they together?!" There is generally one half who's pleasant and kind, and the other is demanding and depressing. I always wonder what drew them together and what kind of person they should be with, but one thing is clear: there's only room in a marriage for one Eeyore with a self-fixation! So, would Arnold have been happier with a different, stronger wife, or would she have murdered him?


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 1330 comments Lol, oh my gosh yes! Known several couples like that - kind of depends, I don’t see Arnold changing, so depends on if he loved being miserable. I can’t tell by descriptions, so far, but if he was one who always had to be right and was Happier being miserable, then I think a stronger wife would have just been two miserable people in a marriage, constantly butting heads.


message 40: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1946 comments Can you imagine two people like Arnold in a marriage?! My in-laws came somewhat close, now that I think on it, and it was not a pretty sight...

Has anyone read The Golden Bough? Thanks to Mary Stewart and Wildfire at Midnight, I know what it is, but I've not read it (no, thanks!). I did a quick search and found nothing about a chest in it. I'm wondering if sacrifices were put in it? Or bones?


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 677 comments The closest thing to a chest I could think of in the Golden Bough conversation was Pandora's Box.


Emilia Barnes | 23 comments Susan in NC wrote: "Lol, oh my gosh yes! Known several couples like that - kind of depends, I don’t see Arnold changing, so depends on if he loved being miserable. I can’t tell by descriptions, so far, but if he was o..."

I think that a different wife for a man of Arnold's temperament would have been better not so much because it would have changed Arnold (although it would have offered some resistance to an excess of his way of looking at the world), but for the happiness of the wife. Caroline is sensitive and obliging and I think derives a lot of comfort from being loved and making people happy. She's also someone who is interested in the ordinary beauty of her surroundings, in contrast to Arnold who moaned about everything and found something to displease him in everything. So a husband like Arnold must have been a really hard lot for her to draw. A less sensitive wife, one who could have kept her hobbies, her inner life, her view steady to her own course regardless of Arnold would probably have had a happier life.

It's hard to tell though, since we don't really meet Arnold for long enough nor even get a deeper view of the marriage.


message 43: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1946 comments Abigail wrote: "The closest thing to a chest I could think of in the Golden Bough conversation was Pandora's Box."

That's funny, Abigail! When I looked up Pandora's box to see how big it was, I found out it was actually an urn used for storing wine, oil, etc., and was mistranslated centuries ago as a "box". Rosetti's painting (the only one I'm familiar with) shows it as a small box, but a lot of others show it as a small urn. Do you know if it was referenced in The Golden Bough?


message 44: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1946 comments Emilia wrote: "Susan in NC wrote: "Lol, oh my gosh yes! Known several couples like that - kind of depends, I don’t see Arnold changing, so depends on if he loved being miserable. I can’t tell by descriptions, so ..."

A self-sufficient person would certainly be able to deal better with Arnold, right? And since he was already cranky and miserable, it wouldn't make any difference to him. If you're going to believe that you're ill-used, regardless of the situation, the truth of the matter doesn't mean much to you. I think that the love Caroline tried to show him would make no more difference to him than someone who didn't put herself out for him at all.

We do get a few telling glimpses of Arnold in these chapters, but I think we see more of him through Leda's character.


message 45: by Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽, Moderator (last edited Aug 05, 2020 10:50AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ | 1221 comments Mod
I've seen The Golden Bough referenced in SO many other books over the years. Originally published in 1890, it seems like the kind of book that would be rather hard to wade through, but would shed so much light on other novels that use mythological archetypes and symbols. It's available free online, of course - maybe I'll take a glance at it sometime.


message 46: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1946 comments Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ wrote: "I've seen The Golden Bough referenced in SO many other books over the years. Originally published in 1890, it seems like the kind of book that would rather hard to wade through, but would shed so m..."

It's one of those that all the writers of the first half of the twentieth century seem to have read. When I read those, our Retro writers, I find myself wishing I'd had a classical education which included the thinkers of their time who had built on the thinkers of antiquity. Modern education is curiously rootless, I think.


Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 677 comments I dug around in The Golden Bough a bit but could not find anything relevant to a chest. I looked for "chest," "box," "Ark of the Covenant," and "Pandora" in the index, then skimmed the detailed table of contents and checked the sections on transference of evil into objects, but nothing. One of those books I've always meant to read.


message 48: by Karlyne (new)

Karlyne Landrum | 1946 comments Ok, Abigail, you and Tadiana read it and let me know how it is. ;)


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 1330 comments Emilia wrote: "Susan in NC wrote: "Lol, oh my gosh yes! Known several couples like that - kind of depends, I don’t see Arnold changing, so depends on if he loved being miserable. I can’t tell by descriptions, so ..."

I agree, a less sensitive wife with her own hobbies and inner life- maybe being a bit selfish, making sure she had time for herself and her own interests instead of subsuming her whole self to Arnold’s needs, might have fared better. Maybe even had the guts to speak frankly to her parents before they died, make them aware that her situation was less than ideal, and she and her children would benefit from being in the will, after all!


Susan in NC (susanncreader) | 1330 comments Karlyne wrote: "Emilia wrote: "Susan in NC wrote: "Lol, oh my gosh yes! Known several couples like that - kind of depends, I don’t see Arnold changing, so depends on if he loved being miserable. I can’t tell by de..."

That’s actually a good and valid point, hadn’t thought of it that way! But yes, if he was determined to feel ill-used and see the glass as ALWAYS half empty, Caroline pretty much sacrificed herself needlessly, which is sad.


« previous 1
back to top