Seeing an Eva Ibbotson book in one of the used bookshops around London a few months ago was a trip down memory lane. How many did I read when I was younger? Time to see if they’re still magical!
It took a while, not liking war settings, I wasn’t easily convinced. At one point, almost towards the end of the book, my opinion turned:
‘We’ll do it again, won’t we?’ they promised each other … forgetting the troops mustered on the border, forgetting the final letter from Bennet’s stockbroker. The old woman who’d said it would rain was kissing Sabine, Chomsky and the greengrocer wandered arm in arm, and the reporters from the local newspapers clustered round Lieselotte.
‘This won’t be the last time,’ they told each other. ‘We’ll do it every single year.’
The magic was back.
It is the story of three suffragette sisters; brave, emancipated, and dedicated to the cause. None of them was going to marry, but one met a man.
“They married and a year later their child was born. It was, fortunately, a girl, whom they named Ellen. The baby was enchanting: plump and dimpled with blonde curls and big brown eyes – the kind of person found in paintings leaning out of heaven. What mattered however was that she was clever. This girl at least should not struggle for her opportunities. Oxford or Cambridge were a certainty, followed by a higher degree and then who knew… an ambassadorship, a seat in the cabinet – nothing was out of Ellen’s reach.”
As it happens though, Ellen was bright, but in no way interested in the life her mother and aunts lived. She smelled flowers and enjoyed watching the world around her. “‘I don’t want to go to university,’ said Ellen. ‘I want to go to a domestic science college. A proper one where they teach you to sew and to cook and clean. I want to use my hands.’”
And so, in 1937, Ellen starts a job as a domestic in Austria, at a school specialising in Music, Drama and the Dance. It is what she was looking for: children to take care of, large meals to plan, clothes to wash; overall, she wants to make the castle full of rowdy children a welcoming and happy place to be – with the war going on in nearby Germany, affecting some of the other staff.
It is all the little things in her every day which make it so magical, which can get you excited like a child and happy to see a community come together. It only takes a few little things and a positive attitude!
A Song For Summer, by Eva Ibbotson
First published in 1997