14th December

My first of two books by O Douglas (Anna Buchan) is The House that is Our Own, the last of her completed novels. It was published in 1940, a dark year for the author whose brother John died in Canada where he was serving as Governor-General. Much of the action takes place in that country and is clearly based on Anna’s recent visit. But the titular house is in the Scottish Borders not far from Peebles. Isobel Logan, a Scot by birth who has never set foot on her native soil, goes to stay in the area on the recommendation of her friend Kitty who has family connections there. Isobel falls in love with the area, makes friends and ultimately buys Glenbucho Place, a rundown country house. Before she has time to settle in properly she is persuaded into a visit to Canada where she makes the acquaintance of the house’s former owner, Gideon Veitch…

Although they were born decades apart I think that Isobel would have had a lot in common with Kate Milbank, the heroine A Foreign Affair by John Rowe Townsend. I devoured his books as a teenager and this is one of the two I have kept. It’s described as a modern fairytale and it’s actually a Ruritanian novel being set mostly in the Alpine country of Essenheim. Kate is the teenage daughter of a newspaper editor who unexpectedly finds herself making the news when, after becoming involved with the Crown Prince, she travels to Essenheim in the company of two disaffected students and an exiled writer. The resulting story is a wonderfully frothy confection with a deep seam of satire running through it.