Listening Valley

I was twelve when I discovered D.E. Stevenson. I had my very first job, cleaning for a neighbor, and on a shelf in her basement sat an old hardcover edition of Celia's House. It was love at first sight.

Ten years have passed since then, and I've reread the story countless times. Its charm deepened last year when I realized that, in Celia's House, Stevenson echoes every particular of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park--a sweet, neglected niece, two vain, flirtatious cousins, a dangerous wooer, a spirited theatrical production, a calm, brown-eyed cousin worthy of any girl's love. Despite Austen's undeniable artistry, though, Celia's House will always hold a higher place in my affections. It's such a lovely story--completely indebted to Jane Austen, but really, really lovely in itself, as well.

I just can't believe it took me a decade to stumble upon its companion. It was like ... unearthing a new Shakespeare. (I'm that devoted.)

Listening Valley can be read on its own, but there is beauty and order in waiting until you've finished Celia's House. And when I really think about it, instead of regretting the years I spent without Listening Valley, I can appreciate how they deepened my love for this companion novel. I knew the original so well, the characters were old friends--reacquainting myself with them through Tonia was a stronger and purer experience because of the space. I'll definitely be scouring London bookshops for this Stevenson, and rereading it just as often as Celia's House.

"Some people might think our lives dull and uneventful but it does not seem so to us. We talked of this and agreed that it is not travel and adventure that make a full life. There are adventures of the spirit and one can travel in books and interest oneself in people and affairs. One need never be dull as long as one has friends to help, gardens to enjoy and books in the long winter evenings."


S. Mehrens said...

Yeah! I just finished Celia's House last night and I am looking forward, hoping to find a copy of Listening Valley. I had to get Celia's House through ILL, so I am uncertain if I can get my hands on LV. Happy hunting and say a "hello" to those London bookshops. I'm so envious. :)

Emme said...

You have whet my appetite for Listening Valley. I'll have to order it.

Your anniversary music selection reminds me of when I played the hymn "The Christian Home" at a family wedding. Last month I realized that this hymntune is better remembered as "Be Still My Soul" which contains the line "Bear patiently the cross of grief and pain." Perhaps appropriate in some cases...but I think I'll strike it from the wedding repertoire from now on.

Noel De Vries said...



Sherry said...

Thank you for the heads up about these books. I'd not heard of them before.

I just saw your September comment on my August book reading (so neglectful I've been). Do not stay away from Greene and O'Connor for that reason, Noel. You will/should learn from these greats; their brilliance does give off light, too. :)

CLM said...

I like D.E. Stevenson too and when I read the Guerney Literary Potato Peel Society, I thought the author was channeling Stevenson and was very pleased. What did you think?

Noel De Vries said...

Sherry: I read Wise Blood, and though it all sounded brilliant, I'm not sure I understood much. :) Greene is next.

CLM: Hmm. I hadn't really thought about a relation, but "Potato" does have a similar feel... also maybe "I Capture the Castle." P.S. I like your blog. We share a love of Noel Streatfeild, and your timtams looks amazing!

CLM said...

Thank you! I do love my Streatfeilds and Lorna Hills although do not possess the acting/dancing skills of those heroines.

I bet you will find lots of amazing books while you are in England. I made a pilgrimage to Hay on Wye but amusingly found more/better books in Oxfam shops elsewhere that trip.