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."