Book #17 – A classic romance – Lavender and Old Lace by Myrtle Reed
Genre: Classic Romance
Book to Movie/TV Adaptation: Adapted for film in 1921
Ruth Thorne, an independent, city girl of twenty-five years and nearly-exhausted due to her stressful job at the city newspaper, jumps at the chance to look after her eccentric aunt’s house on top of a hill in a small seaside village while her aunt is away. When she arrives, her aunt whom she has never met before, has already left for Europe for six months, leaving Ruth only a letter handed to her by young housekeeper Hepsey. The letter has some instructions (but no explanations) including a strange request to light the lamp in the attic every night before bed. Ruth’s reporter instincts immediately come alive – why does her aunt light the lamp every night? Who lives in the house at the foot of the hill where there is a similar lamp burning? Who was Mr. Charles Winfield? While searching for answers to the many questions that keep popping up, Ruth also finds true love on the way.
There’s only one word I will use to describe this book – charming. No, make that three – very very charming. There’s not much I didn’t like about this book. I think the only other classic romance I have really loved is Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster and this follows right after.
This Victorian romance is truly timeless and each and every character is lovingly written – from the strong, independent career girl that is Ruth, Hepsey, the very curious housekeeper, Miss Ainslie, a lady with an almost divine and ethereal presence to Mr. Carl Winfield, a young man of about thirty with a mischievous and endearing charm that quietly steals Ruth’s heart. The other characters which reveal themselves towards the latter half of the story were very nicely sketched too.
Despite being a classic romance, the book’s element of mystery created the main crux of the story. Even though Ruth’s wild imagination makes her cook up different stories about her aunt’s past, she finds herself utterly bored within the first few weeks of her arrival for lack of anything productive to do. Eventually she finds great friendship in her aunt’s old friend Miss Ainslie’s calming presence and later in Carl, who is also from the city and on vacation for six months to heal his tired eyes. Carl, who is her future colleague at the same newspaper, annoys and aggravates her but slowly proves to be her dearest friend and constant companion and gradually, the love of her life. I loved how Carl and Ruth were total opposites of each other but Ruth’s feisty nature attracted Carl and his boyish but caring nature won over Ruth. Their cute, teasing and witty banters were the highlights of their friendship although I didn’t like it much when Ruth slowly changes from being a strong feminist woman, to turn into a much docile version of herself. That was the biggest moot point for me that I didn’t care for.
Towards the end when the mysteries of the past unfold themselves, the book’s tone changes from being light and humourous to a bittersweet one leaving you with a heavy feeling in your heart and a sense of melancholy.
Myrtle Reed’s writing is beautiful – descriptive but simple and not at all over-pretentious. She shares some lovely life wisdom about happiness through Miss Ainslie’s enlightened self. It is ironic however, because Reed tragically committed suicide in real life at the young age of 36. Still, her legacy lives on in her wonderfully penned words and this book is a priceless gem which I would recommend to any lover of classics.
Book Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars