Pink Sugar by O. Douglas (Anna Buchan)

I had no intention of reading this book any time soon but it sort of jumped out at me when I went up to the library to snaffle The Slaves of Solitude last week before anyone else got to it. I thought I might as well give it a go, I’m sure I saw it mentioned favourably on a blog quite recently. The book was first published in 1924 and it runs along similar lines to her earlier book Penny Plain.

Kirsty Gilmour is just 30 years old and is quite well off but for most of her life she has had to travel around with her very demanding and selfish step-mother who liked to live her life just moving from hotel to hotel. The hotels were never in Scotland because the step-mother hated that country so Kirsty hadn’t been home for 22 years. In all that time Kirsty longed to go back to Scotland, her place of birth so when her step-mother died Kirsty rented a lodge house in Muirburn, a small village in her beloved Scottish border country. It’s the first real home which she has ever had and the house goes by what I think is a wonderful name – Little Phantasy.

Kirsty’s whole life has revolved around her step-mother and she finds it difficult to live just for herself so when her elderly Aunt Fanny suddenly finds that she has to give up her own home Kirsty is delighted to offer her a room at Little Phantasy. Then Kirsty hears about three motherless Scottish children who are relatives of a friend and the poor wee things are having to spend the summer in London. Before you know it they are at Little Phantasy too and the usual servants of that time complete the household.

The children provide the humour and it’s almost exactly the same as Penny Plain really. It’s a sort of Mapp and Lucia meets Just William at a Scottish Cranford. Quite enjoyable in a way and something that you can safely recommend to any delicate souls of your acquaintance. If you enjoy Scottish settings of the early 20th century then you’ll probably like this one. The landscape is painted with real affection and becomes as important as any characters, which is usual in most fiction by Celtic writers, I think.

The title Pink Sugar comes from the pink sugar hearts which Kirsty wanted to eat as a child but she was never allowed to because it wasn’t wholesome. Ever since she has had a weakness for pink sugar.

“Surely we want every crumb of pink sugar that we can get in this world. I do hate people who sneer at sentiment. What is sentiment after all? It’s only a word, for all that is decent and kind and loving in these warped little lives of ours…”

I think from that that O. Douglas must have been condemned by reviewers for being too sentimental and she was determined to have her right of reply.

O. Douglas was John Buchan’s sister but she didn’t want to use the family name in case people thought that she was trading on his name as he was already very successfull as a writer.