The Yellow Houses by Stella Gibbons

The Yellow Houses by Stella Gibbons was first published in 2016 by Vintage Classics – posthumously obviously – as the author died in 1989. If you’re expecting another book like the hilarious Cold Comfort Farm you might be disappointed as this one is very different, but I really enjoyed it.

It’s the early 1970s and Wilfred Davis is still bereft after the death of his wife six months previously, but almost worse than that is the behaviour of his teenage daughter Mary who has left home for the bright lights of London, about 70 miles from her family home in Torford, without so much as a cheerio. Mary just wants to find a husband and have three children called Max, Hugh and Cilla, she thinks that London is the place to meet her husband. Wilfred is overcome by sorrow while sitting on a park bench, his sobbing attracts the attention of a man who gives Wilfred a linen handkerchief.

So begins a strange friendship between Wilfred and the man who is called Lafcadio and the two women that he lives with in one of the yellow houses that Wilfred can see from his own home. The yellow house has a strange atmosphere and from conversations between Lafcadio, Miss Dollette and Mrs Cornforth it seems that the three of them might have somehow been sent to help Wilfred – or maybe not Mrs Cornforth, there’s something quite scarily tempting about her. All of Wilfred’s problems clear up and his daughter is soon back in touch with him, it really seems like his life is being orchestrated from on high.

I loved the 1970s, I know we aren’t supposed to but I’ve never been able to understand that, just think of all the great musical artists who came to the fore then, and are still around doing their thing nowadays (apart from Bowie sadly) and this book just oozes 1970s somehow. Yes I DO love flares!

In the book Mary manages to rent a grotty room in a poor part of London – Gospel Oak – an area I don’t recall ever having heard of before, but I was amused to hear on the radio recently that it’s deemed to be a very posh neighbourhood now.

This was one of those books that for me had a song running through it – The Beatles, She’s Leaving Home. It was written by Lennon and McCartney and I believe that they got the idea for the song from reading in the Daily Mirror about a teenager who had run away from home, but that was in 1967.

6 thoughts on “The Yellow Houses by Stella Gibbons

  1. It does sound very different from Cold Comfort Farm, but that’s not a bad thing – it would have been a pity if she’d stuck to just one style. I’m shocked at your admission to liking flares, though! The style police will be knocking on your door any moment now… đŸ˜‰

    • FictionFan,
      I read that flares are coming back – if so I’m going to buy up a lifetime’s supply of them! I’ll dodge platform shoes – but Oxford bags – I live in hope!

    • tracybham,
      I think it would be a good choice. I’ve also read her Starlight and Nightingale Wood which as I recall aren’t quite as uplifting as this one.

  2. “Nightingale Wood” was one of the few — maybe the only — book I’ve ever read that, when I came to the last page, I turned back to the beginning and read it again! I bought some more of her books here and there after that, though I must admit that while I enjoyed them none spoke to me *quite* as much as “Nightingale Wood”!

    Her writing is excellent, but the bonus for me was that while I knew it was to be a “Cinderella” story, it became increasingly obvious that while Gibbons was fond of her Cinderella, another storyline began to interest her more and more — luckily, the one that interested *me* as well!

    • Jeanne,
      It always surprises me that her ‘other’ books aren’t as well known as they should be. It must have been really annoying for her as a writer when it was always Cold Comfort Farm that she was known for, as if she had never written anything else. I don’t think I’ve ever started a re-read immediately after finishing a book, although I have quite often turned to the front of a book when I’ve finished – and had a long hard look at the book – fairly disgusted with myself for picking it up in the first place!

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