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All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this hook may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or review's. For information. Vienna Austria — History— — Fiction.
Inside its mass as she waited, perhaps, for a prince to ascend its tresses, was a pale triangular face with dark smudged eyes. She looked down at the keys. It's supposed to be based on the song of a starling that - ' Her voice broke and she bent her head to vanish, for a moment, into the privacy accorded by her tumbled hair.
But now she, too, recalled the past. You're Professor Somer-ville! I remember when you came before and we were so disappointed. You were supposed to have sunburnt knees and a voice like Richard the Lionheart's.
Horses used to kneel at his shout, didn't you know? It was not the eyes one noticed now, but the snub nose, the wide mouth, the freckles. My father tried to contact you while he was still allowed to telephone. Did it go all right? In London. My mother too, and my aunt… and Uncle Mishak.
They went a week ago. And Heini as well - he's gone to Budapest to pick up his visa and then he's joining them. He remembered her as, if anything, over-protected, too much indulged. She shook her head. But it all went wrong. And I'm trapped here now. There is nobody left. Tell me exactly what happened.
And come away from the piano so that we can be comfortable. There's always a dinner after the honorary degrees.
You'll be expected. I was in my second year, reading Natural Sciences. I was going to help my father till Heini and I could… ' 'Who's Heini?
Well, sort of… He and I… ' Sentences about Heini did not seem to be the kind she finished. But Quin now had recalled the prodigy in his wooden hut. He could attach no face to Heini, only the endless sound of the piano, but now there came the image of the pigtailed child carrying wild strawberries in her cupped hands to where he played.
It had lasted then, her love for the gifted boy. If you don't want to emigrate for good, the British don't mind. I didn't even have to have a J on my passport because I'm only partly Jewish. The Quakers were marvellous. They arranged for me to go on a student transport from Graz.
They took him to that hell hole by the Danube Canal - the Gestapo House. He was held there for days and no one told me. Then they released him and told him he had to leave the country within a week with his family or be taken to a camp. They were allowed to take just one suitcase each and ten German marks - you can't live for a day on that, but of course nothing mattered as long as they could get away.
I'd gone ahead on the student transport two days before. They were looking for our Certificates of Harmless-ness. It's to show you haven't been politically active.
Eva Ibbotson - The Morning Gift
They don't want to send people abroad who are going to make trouble for the regime. I'd read Dostoevsky, of course, and I thought one should be on the side of the proletariat and go to Siberia with people in exile and all that. I'd always worried because we seemed to have so much. I mean, it can't be right that some people should have everything and others nothing. But what to do about it isn't always simple. It seems childish now - we thought we were so fierce.
And, of course, all the time the authorities had me down as a dangerous radical! I phoned a friend of theirs because they'd cut off our telephone and she said they were off the next day. I knew that if they realized I was still in Austria they wouldn't go, so I went to stay with our old cook in Grinzing till they left.
She shrugged. The most difficult thing I've ever done. I'll go to the British Consulate in the morning. There's a man called Eichmann who runs something called the Department of Emigration. He's supposed to help people to leave, but what he really does is make sure they're stripped of everything they own.
You don't know what it's like - people weeping and shouting… ' He had risen and begun to walk up and down, needing to think. My grandmother had two of them, but she died last year. When I was small I used to ride round and round the corridors on my tricycle. He was decorated twice for bravery — he couldn't believe that none of that counted.
I don't think he ever thought about it. His religion was to do with people… with everyone trying to make themselves into the best sort of person they could be. He believed in a God that belonged to everyone… you had to guard the spark that was in you and make it into a flame. And my mother was brought up as a Catholic so it's doubly hard for her.
She's only half-Jewish, or maybe a quarter, we're not quite sure. She had a very Aryan mother - a sort of goat-herding lady. It's hard to believe. My grandmother came from the country - the goat-herding one. My grandfather really found her tending goats — well, almost. She came from a farm. We used to laugh at her a bit and call her Heidi; she never opened a book in her life, but I'm grateful to her now because I look like her and no one ever molests me.
In the corner beside an oleander in a tub, was a painted cradle adorned with roses and lilies. Over the headboard, painstakingly scrolled, were the words Ruthie's cradle.
Quin set it rocking with the toe of his shoe. Beside him, Ruth had fallen silent. Down in the courtyard a single tree -a chestnut in full blossom - stretched out its arms. A swing was suspended from one branch; on a washing line strung between two posts hung a row of red-and-white checked tea towels, and a baby's shirt no bigger than a handkerchief. It seemed so safe to me. The safest place in the world. She had thought of the Englishman as kind and civilized. Now the crumpled face looked devilish: It lasted only a moment, his transformation into someone to fear.
There will be something we can do. There were no words to describe the chaos and despair the Anschluss had caused. He had arrived early at the British Consulate but already there were queues. People begged for pieces of paper - visas, passports, permits - as the starving begged for bread.
She'd have to re-apply for emigration and that could take months or years. The quota's full, as you know. Or get her a domestic work permit? My family would offer her employment. Everything's at sixes and sevens here with Austria no longer being an independent state. The Embassy's going to close and they're sending staff home all the time. Her entire family's in England - she's alone in the world. At least nothing you'd consider. Oh, bother the girl, thought Quin.
He had a sleeper booked on the evening train; the exams began in less than a week. When he took his sabbatical, he'd promised to be back for the end of term. Letting his deputy mark his papers was no part of his plan. He turned into the Felsengasse and went up to the first floor. The door was wide open.
In the hallway, the mirror was smashed, the umbrella stand lay on its side. The word Jude had been smeared in yellow paint across the photograph of the Professor shaking hands with the Kaiser. In the drawing room, pictures had been ripped off the walls; the palm tree, tipped out of its pot, lay sprawled on the carpet. The silver ornaments were missing, the Afghan rug… In the dining room, the doors were torn from the dresser, the Meissen porcelain was gone.
On the verandah, Ruth's painted cradle had been kicked into splintered wood. He had forgotten the physical effects of rage. He had to draw several deep breaths before the giddiness passed and he could turn and go downstairs. This time the concierge was in her box. They do that when an apartment is abandoned. It's not official, but no one stops them. The Professor asked me to look after his flat, but how can I? A German diplomat is moving in next week. What happened to her? But you won't say anything, will you, Herr Doktor?
My husband's been a Nazi for years and he'd never forgive me. I could get into awful trouble. Ruth had always loved the statue of the Empress Maria Theresia on her marble plinth.
Flanked by her generals, a number of horses and some box hedges, she gazed at the strolling Viennese with the self- satisfied look of a good hausfrau who has left her larder full and her cupboards tidy.
Every school child knew that it was she who had made Austria great, that the six-year-old Mozart had sat on her knee, that her daughter, Marie Antoinette, had married the King of France and lost her head. But for Ruth the plump and homely Empress was something more: To the south was the Museum of Art - a gigantic, mock Renaissance palace which housed the famous Titians, the Rembrandts, the finest Breughels in the world. To the north - its replica down to the last carved pillar and ornamented dome - was the Museum of Natural History.
As a child she had loved both museums. The Art Museum belonged to her mother and it was filled with uplift and suffering and love - rather a lot of love. The Madonnas loved their babies, Jesus loved the poor sinners, and St Francis loved the birds. In the Natural History Museum there wasn't any love, only sex - but there were stories and imagined journeys -and there was work. This was her father's world and Ruth, when she went there, was a child set apart.
For when she had had her fill of the cassowary on his nest and the elephant seal with his enormous, rearing chest, and the glinting ribbons of the snakes, each in its jar of coloured fluid, she could go through a magic door and enter, like Alice, a secret, labyrinthine world. For here, behind the gilded, silent galleries with their grey-uniformed attendants, was a warren of preparation rooms and laboratories, of workshops and sculleries and offices. It was here that the real work of the museum was done: Since she was tiny, Ruth had been allowed to watch and help.
Sometimes there was a dinosaur being assembled on a stand; sometimes she was allowed to sprinkle preservative on a stretched-out skin or polish glass slides for a histologist drawing the mauve and scarlet tissues of a cell, and her father's room was as familiar to her as his study in the Felsengasse.
In earlier times, Ruth might have sought sanctuary in a temple or a church. Now, homeless and desolate, she came to this place. It was Tuesday, the day the museum was closed to the public. Silently, she opened the side door and made her way up the stairs.
Her father's room was exactly as he had left it. His lab coat was behind the door; his notes, beside a pile of reprints, were on the desk. On a work bench by the window was the tray of fossil bones he had been sorting before he left. No one yet had unscrewed his name from the door, nor confiscated the two sets of keys, one of which she had left with the concierge. She put her suitcase down by the filing cabinet and wandered through into the cloakroom with its gas ring and kettle.
Leading out of it was a preparation room with shelves of bottles and a camp bed on which scientists or technicians working long hours sometimes slept for a while.
But why should he come, this Englishman who owed her nothing? Why should he even have got the keys she had left with the concierge? Hardly aware of what she was doing, she pulled a stool towards the tray of jumbled bones and began, with practised fingers, to separate out the vertebrae, brushing them free of earth and fragments of rock. As she bent forward, her hair fell on the tray and she gathered it together and twisted it into a coil, jamming a long-handled paintbrush through its mass.
Heini liked her hair long and she'd learnt that trick from a Japanese girl at the university. The silence was palpable. It was early evening now; everyone had gone home. Not even the water pipes, not even the lift, made their usual sounds. Painstakingly, pointlessly, Ruth went on sorting the ancient cave bear bones and waited without hope for the arrival of the Englishman. Yet when she heard the key turn in the door, she did not dare to turn her head. Look at the size of the neural canal. Quin, meanwhile, was registering a number of features revealed by Ruth's skewered hair: And then: But we'll get you out of Vienna.
What happened back at the flat? Did you save anything? I packed some things and went down the fire escape. They weren't after me. Not this time. He was silent, still automatically sorting the specimens. Then he pushed away the tray! I've brought a picnic. Rather a special one. Where shall we have it? I can clear the table and there's another chair next door.
Now where shall we go? You have a fine collection of lions, I see; a little moth-eaten perhaps, but very nicely mounted. Or there's the Amazon - I'm partial to anacondas, aren't you? No, wait; what about the Arctic? I've brought rather a special Chablis and it's best served chilled. You don't want to go back in time? To the Dinosaur Hall? Too much like work. And frankly I'm not too happy about that ichthyosaurus.
Whoever assembled that skeleton had a lot of imagination. He was very ill and he so much wanted to get it finished before he died. Let's goto Madagascar! The Ancient Continent of Lemuria! There's an aye-aye there, a baby - such a sad-looking little thing. You'll really like the aye-aye.
Perhaps you can find us a towel or some newspaper; that's all we need. I'm sure eating here's against the regulations but we won't let that trouble us.
There could be doubts about her face thought Quin, with its contrasting motifs, but none about her impossible, unruly, unfashionable hair. Touched now by the last rays of the sinking sun, it gave off a tawny, golden warmth that lifted the heart. It was a strange walk they took through the enormous, shadowy rooms, watched by creatures preserved for ever in their moment of time. Antelopes no bigger than cats raised one leg, ready to flee across the sandy veld.
The monkeys of the New World hung, huddled and melancholy, from branches - and by a window a dodo, idiotic-looking and extinct, sat on a nest of reconstructed eggs.
Madagascar was all that Ruth had promised. Ring-tailed lemurs with piebald faces held nuts in their amazingly human hands. A pair of indris, cosy and fluffy like children's toys, groomed each other's fur. Tiny mouse lemurs clustered round a coconut. And alone, close to the glass, the aye-aye… Only half-grown, hideous and melancholy, with huge despairing eyes, naked ears and one uncannily extended finger, like the finger of a witch.
Though I did find one tribe who believe they have the power to carry the souls of the dead to heaven. With the French expedition? It must be so beautiful! The trees are so tangled with vines and orchids - you can't believe the scent. And the sunbirds, and the chameleons… ' 'You're so lucky. I was going to travel with my father as soon as I was old enough, but now… ' She groped for her handkerchief and tried again.
Instead, he took the towel and spread it on the parquet. Then he began to unpack the hamper. There was a jar of pate and another of pheasant breasts. There were fresh rolls wrapped in a snowy napkin and pats of butter in a tiny covered dish. He had brought the first Morello cherries and grapes and two chocolate souffles in fluted pots.
The plates were of real china; the long-stemmed goblets of real glass. How could you get all that? How did you have the time? It only took ten minutes. All I had to do was pay. Was it British to be like this, or was it something about him personally? Her father - all the men she knew - would have sat back and waited for their wives. When it was finished it was like a banquet in a fairy story, yet like playing houses when one was a child.
But when she began to eat, there were no more thoughts; she was famished; it was all she could do to remember her manners. And the wine is absolutely lovely. It's not strong is it?
Tonight she was entitled to repose however it was brought about. It's in the north-west, do you know it? He's in Budapest getting his emigration papers and saying goodbye to his father, but there won't be any trouble.
He's Hungarian and the Nazis don't have anything to say there. After the goat-herding lady died, my grandfather married the daughter of a rabbi who already had a little girl - she was a widow - and that was Heini's mother, so we're not blood relations. A real one. He was going to have his debut with the Philharmonic… three days after Hitler marched in.
He was absolutely frantic. I didn't know how to comfort him; not properly. Properly, I mean. We were going to go away together after the concert, to Italy. I'd have gone earlier but my parents are very old-fashioned… also there was the thing about Chopin and the etudes. How do Chopin etudes come into this? It had been so lovely, the wine, like drinking fermented hope or happiness, and now she was babbling and being indiscreet and would end up in the gutter, a confirmed absinthe drinker destined for a pauper's grave.
But Quin was waiting and she plunged. I mean that… you know… the same energy goes into composing and… the other thing. A sort of vital force. And this professor thought it was good for Heini to wait. But then Heini found out that the professor was wrong about the way to finger the Appassionata, so then he thought maybe he was wrong about Chopin too.
Because there was George Sand, wasn't there? It wasn't till they had finished the meal and Ruth, moving nimbly in the gathering darkness, had cleared away and packed up the hamper, that he said: I think we must get you out of Vienna to somewhere quiet and safe in the country. Then we can start again from England.
I know a couple of people in the Foreign Office; I'll be able to pull strings. I doubt if anyone will bother you away from the town and I shall make sure that you have plenty of money to see you through. With your father and all of us working away at the other end we'll be able to get you across before too long.
But you must get away from here. Is there anyone you could go to? She lives by the Swiss border, in the Vorarlberg. She'd have me, but I don't know if I ought to inflict myself on anyone. If I'm unclean — ' 'Don't talk like that,' he said harshly. Now tell me exactly where she lives and I'll see to everything. What about tonight? There's a camp bed. What about the night watchman? And if he does, he's known me since I was a baby. At two in the morning, Quin got out of bed and wondered what had made him leave a girl hardly out of the schoolroom to spend a night alone in a deserted building full of shadows and ghosts.
Dressing quickly, he made his way down the Ringstrasse, crossed the Theresienplatz, and let himself in by the side entrance. Ruth was asleep on the camp bed in the preparation room. Her hair streamed onto the floor and she was holding something in her arms as a child holds a well-loved toy. Professor Berger's master key unlocked also the exhibition cases. It was the huge-eyed aye-aye that Ruth held to her breast. Its long tail curved up stiffly over her hand and its muzzle lay against her shoulder.
Quin, looking down at her, could only pray that, as she slept, the creature that she cradled was carrying her soul to the rain-washed streets of Belsize Park, and the country which now sheltered all those that she loved. Leonie Berger got carefully out of bed and turned over the pillow so that her husband, who was pretending to be asleep on the other side of the narrow, lumpy mattress, would not notice the damp patch made by her tears.
Then she washed and dressed very attentively, putting on high-heeled court shoes, silk stockings, a black shirt and crisply ironed white blouse, because she was Viennese and one dressed properly even when one's world had ended. Then she started being good. Leonie had been brave when they left Vienna, secreting a diamond brooch in her corset which was foolhardy in the extreme.
She had been sensible and loving, for that was her nature, making sure that the one suitcase her husband was allowed to take contained all the existing notes for his book on Mammals of the Pleistocene, his stomach pills and the special nail clippers which alone enabled him to manicure his toes.
She had been patient with her sister-in-law, Hilda, who was emigrating on a domestic work permit, but had fallen over her untied shoelaces as they made their way onto the Channel steamer, and she had cradled the infant of a fellow refugee while his mother was sick over the rails.
Even when she saw the accommodation rented for them by their sponsor, a distantly related dentist who had emigrated years earlier and built up a successful practice in the West End, Leonie only grumbled a little.
The rooms on the top floor of a dilapidated lodging house in Belsize Close were cold and dingy, the furniture hideous, the cooking facilities horrific, but they were cheap. But that was when she thought Ruth was waiting for them in the student camp on the South Coast.
Since the letter had come from the Quaker Relief Organization to say that Ruth was not on the train, Leonie had started being good.
This meant never at any moment criticizing a single thing. It meant inhaling with delight the smell of slowly expiring cauliflower from the landing where a female psychoanalyst from Breslau shared their cooker.
It meant admiring the scrofulous tom cats yowling in the square of rubble that passed for a garden. It meant being enchanted by the hissing gas fire which ate pennies and gave out only fumes and blue flames. It meant angering no living thing, standing aside from houseflies, consuming with gratitude a kind of brown sauce which came in bottles and was called coffee.
It meant telling God or anyone else who would listen at all hours of the day and night, that she would never again complain whatever happened if only Ruth was safe and came to them. If she hadn't been so desperate about Ruth, Leonie would have greatly pitied her sister-in-law, who was constantly bitten by Mrs Manfred's pug and found it impossible to believe that a bath, once cleaned, also had to be dried, but now she could only be thankful that Hilda would not be around to 'help' her with her chores.
At eight o'clock, Uncle Mishak, the English dictionary in the pocket of his coat, set off up the hill to join the long queue of foreigners in Hampstead Town Hall who waited daily for news of relatives, for instructions, for permission to remain - and as he walked, a tiny compact figure stopping to examine a rose bush in a garden or address an unattended-dog, he was hailed by the acquaintances this kind old man had made even in the ten days he had been in exile.
They're coming over all the time. She'll come, you'll see. And as Uncle Mishak made his way up the hill, Professor Berger, holding himself very erect, forcing himself to swing his walking stick, made his way downhill for the daily journey to Bloomsbury House where a bevy of Quakers, social workers and civil servants tried to sort out the movements of the dispossessed - and as he walked through the grey streets whose very stones seemed to be permeated with homesickness, he raised his hat to other exiles going about their business.
He had no work permit, his quartet was disbanded, but each day he went to the Jewish Day Centre to practise in an unused cloakroom, and each night he dressed up in a cummerbund to play bogus gypsy music in a Hungarian restaurant in exchange for his food. Left alone in the dingy rooms, Leonie continued to be good. There were plenty of opportunities for this as she set about the housework. The thick layer of grease where the psychoanalyst's stew had boiled over would normally have sent her raging down to the second-floor front where Fraulein Lutzenholler sat under a picture of Freud and mourned, but she wiped it up without a word.
The bathroom, shared by all the occupants, provided almost unlimited opportunities for virtue. There was a black rim around the bath, the soaked bathmat was crumpled up in a corner… and Miss Bates, a nursery school teacher and the only British survivor at Number 27, had hung a row of dripping camiknickers on a sagging piece of string. None of it mattered.
Loving Miss Bates, hoping she would find a husband soon, Leonie wrung out the knickers, cleaned the bath. She had had servants all her life, but she knew how to work. Now everything she did was offered up to God: Then, at twelve o'clock, she renewed her make-up and set off for the Willow Tea Rooms.
Even at a distance it was easy to see how carefully she walked, with what politeness she spoke to the pigeons who crossed her path. Miss Maud and Miss Violet Harper had started the Willow Tea Rooms five years earlier when it was discovered that their father, the General, had not been as provident as they had hoped. It was a pretty place on the corner of a small square behind Belsize Lane and they had made it nice with willow-pattern china, dimity curtains and a pottery cat on the windowsill.
Reared to regard foreigners as, at best, unfortunate, the ladies had stoutly resisted the demands of the refugees who increasingly thronged the district. The Glori-ette in St John's Wood might serve cakes with outlandish names and slop whipped cream over everything, the proprietors of the Cosmo in Finchley might supply newspapers on sticks and permit talk across the tables, but in the" Willow Tea Rooms, the decencies were preserved.
Customers were offered scones or sponge fingers and, at lunchtime, scrambled eggs on toast, but nothing ever with a smell- and anyone sitting more than half an hour over a cup of coffee, got coughed at, first by Miss Violet, and if this was ineffectual, by the fiercer Miss Maud.
Yet by the summer of , as the bewildered Austrians joined the refugees from Nazi Germany, the ladies, imperceptibly, had changed. For who could cough at Dr Levy, with his walrus moustache and wise brown eyes, not after he had diagnosed Miss Violet's bursitis - and who could help laughing at Mr Ziller's imitation of himself playing "Dark Eyes" on the violin to an American lady with a faulty hearing aid?
Ruth was coming, she was going to study here; soon her boyfriend, a brilliant concert pianist, would follow. The change in Mrs Berger since then had shaken even the General's daughters, used as they were to stones of loss and grief.
Leonie entered the cafe, navigated to the chair which Paul Ziller drew out for her, nodded at the actor from the Vienna Burg Theatre in the corner, at old Mrs Weiss in her feathered toque, at an English lady with a poodle… Dr Levy put down his book on The Diseases of the Knee which he had understood intimately twenty years ago, but which came less trippingly in English from the tongue of a middle-aged heart specialist who'd had no breakfast.
The actor from the Burg Theatre - a fair- haired, alarmingly handsome man exiled for politics not race - said many people were escaping through Portugal, a fact confirmed by the couple from Hamburg at a corner table.
Paul Ziller said nothing, only patted Leonie's hand. Lonely beyond belief without the three men with whom he had made music for a decade, he was remembering the comical, blonde child who had climbed out of her cot the first time the quartet had played for Professor Berger's birthday and come stamping down the corridor in a nightdress and nappies, refusing absolutely to be returned to bed. Mrs Weiss, her auburn wig askew under her hat, now launched into an incoherent story involving a missing girl who had turned up unexpectedly on a milk train to Dieppe.
The scourge of the Willow Tea Rooms, she was seventy-two years old and had been rescued by her prosperous lawyer son from the village in East Prussia where she had lived all her life.
The lawyer now owned a mock Tudor mansion in Hampstead Garden Suburb, a fishpond, and an English wife who deposited her dreadful mother-in-law each morning in the cafe with a fistful of conscience money. The words 'I buy you a cake? When she had finished, the English lady, who for a year had refused to speak across the tables, said that if Leonie really was an Aquarian, the stars in the Daily Telegraph that morning had been entirely favourable.
But when Professor Berger came in, weary from his long walk up the hill, and then Uncle Mishak, it was clear that the stars in the the Telegraph had not prevailed. And Leonie said, yes, and thank you, and remembered to ask about the wedding of Mrs Burtt's niece, and the cat which had had kittens in an unsuitable linen basket in the ladies' flat above the shop.
Then Professor Berger picked up his manuscript on The Mammals of the Pleistocene and went with Dr Levy to the public library, and Paul Ziller went to play Bach partitas among the wash basins and lockers of the Day Centre, and the actor who had declaimed Schiller from Europe's most prestigious stage made his way to the casting offices in Wardour Street to see if someone would let him say Schweinehund in a film about wicked German soldiers in the Great War. And Leonie nodded and accompanied the old lady out into the street and into the shop of the nearby butcher with whom Mrs Weiss did daily battle - for helping Mrs Weiss to procure the delicate veal suitable for frying and thus confound her daughter-in-law was so time-consuming and so tiresome that it had - oh, surely - to be classed as Being Good.
Until the long day was done at last and Hilda returned with a hole in her skirt where she had caught it in Mrs Manfred's carpet sweeper, and Uncle Mishak changed into his pyjamas in his cupboard of a room and said, 'Good night, Marianne,' as he had said every night for eighteen years and not stopped saying when she died.
And Leonie and her husband climbed into their lumpy bed, and held each other in their arms - and did not sleep. But in the flat above the Willow Tea Rooms, a light still burned. Not… strudels? I'm sure Father would not have wished us to serve anything like that.
That would be going too far. But there's one they all talk about. It begins with a G. Sounds like guggle… Guglhupf or something. There is no question of anything being bought in. But I did just glance at the recipe when I was in the library,' said Miss Maud, blushing like someone admitting to a peep at a pornographic magazine.
That early summer evening when Ruth was lost in Europe and the first air-raid sirens were tried out in Windsor Castle, the ladies of the Willow Tea Rooms let compassion override principle. The Franz Joseph Station, at two in the afternoon, was relatively quiet. Only local trains left from platform seven. Here there were none of the tragic scenes of parting; weeping parents, children with labels on their coats being sent to safety abroad.
The wooden third-class carriages were filled with peasant women carrying bundles and babies, or chickens in coops. She had found an old rucksack in one of her father's cupboards and repacked her few belongings. With her unruly Rapunzel hair straight-jacketed into two pigtails, she looked about sixteen years old and seemed to be in excellent spirits. Only you shouldn't have given me so much money. Ruth had spent two nights at the museum; no one had given her away, not the cleaning lady, not the night watchman, and Quin, relieved that his task was nearly done, smiled at her with avuncular kindness.
On Mozart's head, I swear it. The self-important engine emitted clouds of steam, and under cover of the noise, Ruth leant over to speak into his ear. In less than a month, I hope. I know exactly what to do. A last door slammed - and Ruth's face came out of the steam, radiant and self-assured. You go over the Kanderspitze; it's only a few hours. I did it with one of the boys from the farm and the guards didn't even turn round!
The Swiss are armed and on the alert. Next thing they'll shoot you for a spy. I promise I'll be all right. Then when I'm safe in Switzerland I'll make my way to the French border and swim the Varne - it's a tributary of the Rhone and it's not at all wide; I've looked it up on the map.
After all Piatigorsky swam the Sbruch with his cello over his head to get away from the Russians so I ought to manage with a rucksack. I'm a very good swimmer because of my Aunt Hilda… Do you remember she did this breast stroke where she never actually moved and I got used to pushing her across the lake. And once I'm in France all I have to do is contact my father's cousin. He's got a boat and he'll take me across the Channel, I know, so -' She broke off.
Let me go! Do you think this is a girl's adventure story? The world's on the brink of- oh, to hell! Tightening his grip as she struggled, he reached out for the rucksack which a peasant lady, approving of masterful males, had taken from the rack. The guard, scowling at the commotion, closed the door and raised his whistle to his mouth.
Still fighting him, twisting her head, she saw her train draw away, gather speed, and vanish. It had been a mistake to introduce the word morganatic into a conversation that was already going badly.
Quin had had a sleepless night and spent the last forty-eight hours bullying, bribing, cajoling and confronting a series of officials or he would not have done anything so stupid, the more so as they were speaking English. Ruth's Aberdonian accent was only vestigial now, she was entirely fluent, but over the concept of a morganatic marriage, this over-educated girl had clearly met her Waterloo.
They were sitting in a cafe in the Stadtpark and he was almost certain that at any moment someone would start playing Strauss. It's a gift given the morning after the bridal night with which the husband, by bestowing it, frees himself from any liability to the wife.
Like Franz Ferdinand. His wife didn't have any of his titles or responsibilities. He was not a man for headaches, but he had one now. Ours would simply be a marriage in name only. A formality. It was as he had thought. At least a dozenladies in braided uniforms had come on to the bandstand. Not just Strauss, but Strauss played by women dressed like Grenadier Guards. By day, he and Ruth, speaking only English, could pass for foreign visitors, but she was still sleeping in the museum and it was only a matter of time before someone gave her away.
I've got to get back to England, you want to go there. The consul here will marry us - it'll take a few minutes, it'll be a mere formality. Then you'll be put on my passport as my wife -in effect you become a British subject. When we get to London we go our separate ways and dissolve the marriage on the grounds of- ' He stopped himself just in time. Non-consummation on top of morganatic marriage was not something he was willing to discuss to the sound of Strauss with this obstinate girl.
Ruth was silent, tilting the lemonade in her glass. It would have to be something very nice so that one would not mind not having responsibilities. A St Bernard dog, perhaps. If there was, he would probably be a Welshman from Pontypool and a rugger blue. Why is that? The subject is closed. I'll fetch you at eleven from the museum; we'll be married at noon and by the evening we'll be on the sleeper. As for your Heini, surely he'd rather you were safe and reunited with him even if it means waiting a little while before you can be married?
Think how you would feel if the positions were reversed? I can't ask it of you and - ' But Quin was looking at the bandstand where the worst was happening. The night had been stormy, but now the sky was clearing and over Lindisfarne, the Holy Island, a thin strip of silver light appeared, widened… and the sea, which minutes before had been turbulent and dark, became suddenly, unbelievably blue.
Three cormorants skimmed over the water, heading for the Fames, and from the bird-hung cliffs came the incessant mewing of the nesting kittiwakes and terns. But the elderly lady, formidably dressed in dark purple tweeds, her iron-grey hair concealed under a woollen scarf adorned with the bridles of horses and their whips, was not gazing either at the birds, nor at the round heads of the seals bobbing off Bowmont Point.
Standing on the terrace of Bowmont, she trained her binoculars on the long, golden strand of Bowmont Bay. Three; no, more… A whole family, paddling and, no doubt, shrieking, though they were mercifully out of earshot.
She could make out a man and a woman, and another woman… a grandmother. And a child. Not fishermen or village people going about their business. Her voice was deep, her outrage total. They would have to go. They would have to be shooed away. It was happening more and more.
People came up from Newcastle or down from Berwick. Holiday-makers, tourists, defiling the empty places, catching shrimps, wearing idiotic clothes… Bowmont had been built on a promontory: Lonely, wind-buffeted, its history was Northumbria's own - raided by the Danes from the sea, by the Scots from the land, besieged by Warwick the Kingmaker; ruined and rebuilt.
Turner had painted it in a turbulent sunset, a sailing boat listing dangerously at the base of its sea-lashed cliffs. St Cuthbert, on Lindisfarne, had preached to the eider ducks which still nested on Bowmont Point, and from the white needle of Longstone lighthouse, Grace Darling had rowed into legend, bringing rescue to the shipwrecked wretches on Harcar Rock.
Quin, as a child, had known exactly where God lived. Not in the Holy Land as painted in his illustrated bible, but in the swirling, ever-changing, cloud-wracked sky above his home.
Frances Somerville had been forty years old, a spinster still living at home, when old Quinton Somerville, the legendary and terrifying "Basher", retired from the navy, had sent for her. She disliked the old man, who had made no secret of the fact that as a plain, unmarried woman, she was entirely without consequence. Then Quin, aged ten, was sent for and introduced. She was wrong. The Basher was found dead on a garden seat not three months later, and in his own way he had played fair, for he had left her a comfortable annuity out of his admittedly vast estate.
Since then she had been Bowmont's guardian and its chatelaine and with Quin so often away on his travels, that meant keeping it free from invaders, from the creeping stain of tourism and so-called modern life. Now in her sixtieth year, big-nosed, tight-lipped, with sparse grey hair and fierce blue eyes, her opinion of the human race was low. An abandoned seal pup, a puffin with a broken wing, could count on Miss Somerville for help; a human in a similar plight would be lucky to get a cup of tea in the servants' quarter.
Once, rumour had it, it had been different. She had been sought in marriage by a Scottish nobleman, despatched to his house to be looked over… but it had come to nothing, and the shy, plain girl became the formidable spinster, respected by all and loved by nobody. A gardener's boy came across the terrace, carrying a rake.
They must be removed. Here, in the relative shelter of the curving cliff there was a smaller bay, the sand dotted with rocks and dark drifts of seaweed. Anchorage Bay, it was called, and in the previous century boats had tied up at the little jetty, there had been fishermen living in the row of cottages and cobles drawn up on the beach.
Those days were gone and Quin had converted the boat-house and two of the cottages into a lab and dormitory for the students he brought up for his field course. Last year one of the girls had worn a two-piece bathing costume and Miss Somerville's early morning viewing through her binoculars had revealed the completely exposed midriff of a girl from Surbiton. The gardener's boy reappeared. And he says to tell you, miss, that Lady Rothley telephoned and she's coming at eleven.
The tidemarks… the infuriating ancient law that decreed that the shore between low tide and high tide belonged to everyone. It was nonsense, of course. To get there they had come over Somerville land - the fields behind the bay all belonged to Quin and she made sure that the gates were kept locked. For a moment, she felt old and discouraged. This was not her world. Beyond the point was ancient Dunstanburgh with a golf course now lapping its ruined towers.
The Morning Gift
Trippers could creep in that way too and make their way to Bowmont. She was like King Canute, struggling uselessly against the defilement of the human race. And Quin didn't really help her. Quin had ideas that she tried to understand but couldn't. Miss Somerville loved no one; it was a point of honour with her to have banished this destructive emotion from her breast, but Quin was Quin and she would have jumped off the cliff for him without further consideration.
And yet from this boy, whom she herself had reared, came ideas and theories that she would not have expected to read even in the Socialist gutter press. Quin did not chase trippers off his land, merely requesting them to close the gates; he had acknowledged a right of way across the dunes to Bowmont Mill, and now there was talk of one day… not while she lived, perhaps… but one day, giving Bowmont to the National Trust.
The dreaded words made Miss Somerville shiver. The sun had established full dominion now; the terns were white arrows against the indigo of the water; harebells and yarrow and clusters of pink thrift glowed in the turf, but Miss Somerville, usually so observant, saw only the spectre of the future.
A car park in the Lower Meadow, refreshment kiosks, charabancs with stinking exhaust pipes unloading trippers in the forecourt. Poor Frampton had done it, given his home away, and there were vulgar little green huts at the gates of Frampton Court and men in caps like doormen punching tickets, and a tea room and souvenir stall. But Frampton had an excuse; he was bankrupt.
The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson
Quin had no such excuse. The farm was in profit, the rents from the village brought in sufficient revenue to see to repairs, and his inheritance from the Basher had left him a wealthy man. For Quin to give away his heritage was irresponsible and mad. She turned and went in through a door beside the tower, to a store room which she had turned into a kennel for her labradors.
Just fine. The puppies were sucking: There was good blood there. Comely had been mated in Wales - Miss Somerville had taken her there herself and it had been a bother, but it always paid to get decent stock. Oh, why couldn't Quin marry, she thought, making her way across the courtyard.
Not one of those girls he brought up sometimes: Once he had a lusty son or two, he'd forget all this nonsense about the Trust. Later, in the drawing room, the subject came up again. Lady Rothley was the closet thing to a friend which Frances Somerville allowed herself and there was no need to make a fuss when she came. No need to light a fire, no need to shoo the dogs off the chairs.
Ann Rothley bred Jack Russells and all the tapestry sofas at the Hall were covered in short white hairs. Frances might dress like a charwoman, but she kept the servants up to scratch. A dark, handsome woman in her forties, she did not object to Quin's scholarship. It happened sometimes in these old families. At Wallington, the Trevelyans were for ever writing history books. I simply had to get rid of that German he landed me with. The opera singer from Dresden. I sent him to the dairy because all the indoor posts were filled and it's been a disaster.
The dairy maid fell in love with him and he was useless with the cows. I can't help wondering whether some of them go round pretending to be Jewish just to get the benefits. The Quakers are giving away fortunes in relief, I understand. I didn't like to dismiss him, but the cows are not musical. There's almost nothing I won't do for Quin, but he must stop trying to get us all to employ these dreadful refugees. Poor Helen - he made her take a man from Berlin to act as a chauffeur and handyman and as soon as he's finished work he gets people in and they play chamber music.
It's like lemons in your ears, you know - screech, screech. She's had to tell them to go and do it in an outhouse. I wish Quin wasn't so concerned about them. I mean, there are lots of other people to worry about, aren't there? The unemployed and the coal miners and so on. Not that one likes Jews. When they're rich they're bankers and when they're poor they're pedlars and in between they play the violin.
I'm not having any of them at Bowmont while I'm in charge and I've told Quin. She spoke cheerfully and no one knew what it cost her to do so, for Rollo, her adored eldest son, was eighteen years old. One could keep them separate in the boathouse on mattresses with rubber sheets and take their food across.
Whereas refugees would… mingle. I think he means it, Ann. Estates sold for building land, forests felled, townspeople gawping at the houses of one's friends. Livy saw him at the theatre twice with a girl before he went abroad, but she didn't think he was serious. But she had not screamed or run away, she had endured it, as later she endured the boredom of his weekly visits to her bed, looking at the ceiling, thinking of her embroidery or her dogs.
And now there were children and a future. But what more can we do? We are told before that she is to marry poor Kenneth, but I would have liked a bit of a follow-up. I was sad that Huw died, but it was a realistic addition to the round-up. This book was not only froth and romance and mistakes in communication. There was Hitler, there was Biberstein's death, there was having to flee the Nazis, Berger losing his position, the house being vandalised, being poor refugees in London, Heini being in a camp though at least not one like Oranienburg or Dachau, as Ruth had imagined!
Writing this has made me want to read the book again now! I think I'll have to fetch it back from Manu one day, after all Lastly, this is lovely: When angels sing for God they sing Bach, but when they sing for pleasure they sing Mozart, and God eavesdrops. Oct 30, Diana rated it liked it Recommends it for: Having now waded through the bulk of this author's novels, I have detected a worrying trend. All of Ibbotson's heroines have maintained a virtuous purity that stays with them until the relationship they inevitably pursue with the hero.
On the other hand, her heroes, whether it is directly stated or subtly implied, have more than a few notches on the bedpost if you catch my drift. Now, I by no means want to suggest I feel the answer to the neverending question of gender inequality is for women to Having now waded through the bulk of this author's novels, I have detected a worrying trend. Now, I by no means want to suggest I feel the answer to the neverending question of gender inequality is for women to adopt similar attitudes to sexual relationships.
But I detest double standards. I absolutely loathe them, particularly when the men in these novels demand and I do not choose that word lightly something from women they have no intention of returning. To quote a well beloved 80s movie, it really frosts my cookies. Apart from that, I feel this author provides the sort of cheesy escapism I so often pursue to provide my brain with a breather between classics. I liked the plot of this book and felt the main relationship was better developed than in the previous Ibbotson novel I read.
Feb 10, Ruth rated it it was amazing Shelves: How am I just now reading Ibbotson? Her writing sparkles with humor and romance and generous dash of fairytale dust that makes it impossible not to believe in true love and happy endings.
For although her characters may be bruised by the horror of the Nazi menace, they remain unbroken, their spirit indomitable. For within Ibbotson's world colored by her ow How am I just now reading Ibbotson? For within Ibbotson's world colored by her own experiences fleeing Hitler and growing up displaced , love -- both familial and romantic -- triumphs. Ibbotson has a wildly intelligent voice and a sly sense of humor that finds no subject relative to the heart and its passions off-limits.
This is an unabashedly feeling book, with moments of laugh-out-loud humor liberally sprinkled throughout, relieving the moments of heartbreaking pathos. Reading this book was the literary equivalent of watching the film Cluny Brown.
Ruth good name, no? And herein Ibbotson works her magic, for this is the rare tale that reclaims the marriage of convenience trope for me and makes it feel fresh and new and funny. While this is Ruth and Quin's tale and Quin is the dishiest of heroes, an academic with an Indiana Jones-like flair!
I adore Ruth and Quin, but more than that I love that Ibbotson never loses sight of her quirky, colorful supporting players -- and in that sense, this novel is a snapshot of a bygone era on the cusp of change, a reminder that each generation's hope of leaving the world better than they found it is as timeless as the love of a parent for a child, or the unexpected joy of romance between a man and woman, discovered when they least expect it.
This is one of the smartest, most engaging -- and hopeful -- romances that I've read in ages. While I cannot believe this is my first Ibbotson novel, it certainly shall not be my last, and I am quite grateful this book came to me when it did.
I had to read this book - even if just for the sole reason that the main character shares my first name! On a more serious note, this book really was a fantastic read. This was a wonderful story about a young girl called Ruth great name btw! Her family have already traveled to London but Ruth comes across various obstacles when trying to leave and family friend Quin has to step in to help her. A visiting professor, Quin is I had to read this book - even if just for the sole reason that the main character shares my first name!
A visiting professor, Quin is acquainted with Ruth's scholarly father and when he sees Ruth in danger, Quin does everything he can to help her leave safely. Which incidentally includes marrying her to obtain a valid passport. When she is reunited with her family, Ruth is determined to put the whole marriage behind her but as her and Quin's lives continue to intertwine, genuine feelings begin to grow between the two of them, which is further complicated when her longtime love re-enters the picture I love a good historical novel and this book just ticks all the right boxes for me.
It has a star-crossed love story that is just simply magical to see unfold and it is set in such a momentous time in history. I felt the real sense of danger that was building in the early chapters and it was quite the relief when the characters finally made it to London. Yet the drama didn't stop there for them. I really enjoyed the romance in this book. It was both sweet and angsty but I never felt it tipped too far in one direction or another. There was a nice balance to it all.
The characters were pretty memorable and the story was well-executed. It is definitely one I can see myself reading every couple of years. So when I read this for the first time as a young teen I gave it 3 stars.
Having now returned to it in my twenties I've lowered it to 2 - because I just didn't like a single character! I didn't think it was possible to have no feeling for any character in a book, particularly one based during the war but I just couldn't stand them!
You have the main character Ruth who just seems naive, over the top, and despite being described as odd she has men falling all over her! Having a talent in playing the piano doesn't give you the right to walk over everyone as if you are above them! I guess the Professor - Quin Somerville was ok, but as a man of 35 you'd think he'd have more of a brain to deal with the issues that arise between him and Ruth.
Overall I gave zero fucks about the characters and their issues which is quite sad. In Vienna, Austria in the s, Karl Berger, professor and Zoology, and his wife Leonie are raising their daughter Ruthie to be intelligent and curious about everything. When Leonie's step-sister's son Heine, the piano virtuoso comes to live with them, young Ruth falls madly in love and Heine decides that Ruth is his starling, like the starling Mozart kept in a cage to sing for him.
After Quin leaves, however, he returns to his work and forgets about the little girl but not about his kind host. Years later, when Quin is offered an honorary degree back in Vienna, he accepts because of the kindness of Professor Berger. However, the Nazis have taken over peaceful Vienna and the Bergers have been forced to leave Austria. Ruth was supposed to join her family in England, but was left behind. Wanting to help, Quin offers Ruth his protection.
He finds it more difficult to get Ruth out of Austria than he realized and decides to offer Ruth a morgantic marriage based on the concept of the morning gift. After the wedding night, the husband absolves the bride of all marriage rights and her children will not inherit.
Ruth reluctantly agrees, knowing it is the only way to get out of Austria. She believes they will be able to get an annulment or divorce easily, Heine will join the family in England, become a celebrity and she will marry him and live happily ever after.
However, things don't go as smoothly as hoped and circumstances bring Ruth and Quin back together, this time, as student and teacher at Thameside University.
Ruth quickly becomes a top pupil and a favorite with the other students and professors, all except the daughter of the Vice Chancellor whose goals include being the top student and marrying the wealthy Quin. Quin has no intentions of marrying anyone or producing an heir for his ancestral home.
He's happy with his work and his experienced lovers, or so he thinks. The ending is a little surprising but not all together unpredictable. World events take a backseat to the romance in this novel, unlike some of her others, which is nice.
I also didn't like the ending very much and would have done it differently. This is basically an update of the Regency novels I usually read. At first I was bothered by the double standards but soon ignored them as I got caught up in the romance. In order to love this novel, you have to overlook some really stupid behavior on the part of the characters and the beautiful, good, doe-eyed heroines Ibbotson likes to write about. I was able to do that and was so absorbed in the story I couldn't put the book down.
This is a good read for adults and older teens who like sweet romances. I had given up on Eva Ibbotson — but I'm glad to say that I was mistaken. I utterly adored this book — and laughed out loud more than once! I cannot put into words how much I liked this book but I'll try anyway. Ruth is a sweet, charming and very charismatic heroine who attracts everyone who meets her. He cannot leave her in Vienna and the only escape is through a marriage of convenience, to be dissolved as soon as they reach London.
Only it turns out that it wasn't that easy to dissolve a marriage — and somehow Ruth ends up in his class at the university. But Ruth was supposed to get engage to Heini, a concert pianist trying to escape from Budapest, and Verena Plackett who's also in the class, the Vice Chancellor's daughter, plans on marrying Quin herself. The story is set during the beginning of the Second World War, and it's in the background throughout the book. The book takes place at the university and personally I really liked all the science references.
It also provides some deeper insights into the culture and life during this time, and also into the life of refugees coming to a new country having left all behind. Previously I have had trouble with Eva Ibbotson in A Countess Below Stairs and A Company of Swans in which she wrote out the romance instead of letting the characters act it out but this story was completely different! Ruth and Quin have plenty of interactions and it's through these we start suspect that there might be something between them even though they haven't caught up.
I loved almost everything about this book. I loved the lead couple — their interactions, bantering and slow realization that they might love each other after all. The plot was exciting, the setting exquisite and an immense story structure. I read an older version which I borrowed from the library and I think this might be better than the new one the previous book I read was full of typos and strange translations — here there was nothing of this sort.
There were great twists and turns and I was super excited to find out how or if they were going to end up in their happily ever after. I would recommend this to everyone!
Mar 10, Silver Petticoat rated it it was amazing Shelves: Read this entire review here: To me, this makes the story more compelling. As they find themselves happy or annoyed, without knowing why the reader waits to see how long it take Read this entire review here: As they find themselves happy or annoyed, without knowing why the reader waits to see how long it takes these two intelligent people to figure out their feelings. When the misunderstanding occurs, we as readers know the whole story, while Quin and Ruth each only know half of it.
Ibbotson ties it all together in a way that I think is still suspenseful and satisfying. The Morning Gift also fits into one of my personal favorite tropes, a marriage of convenience that ends in love but is plagued by misunderstanding, and sets it in England before World War II, a time period that is wonderful for historical fiction; so much is happening!
Quin and Ruth are a wonderful couple, mostly because they seem to be so different and yet so similar. The Morning Gift is one of my favorite books ever written. Read this entire review and others especially if you love old-fashioned chivalrous romance at: View 1 comment. I did not know what to expect from Eva Ibbotson's books.
I had seen them a lot whilst working in libraries, but had never picked them up and did not know anything about the author herself. I had assumed she was a young writer, not a woman who died in , at the age of eighty-five, with such a rich history behind her. Having now finished five of her books, I can now say that I completely understand why she is an author who is held in such high regard. She weaves history and romance together so I did not know what to expect from Eva Ibbotson's books.
She weaves history and romance together so effortlessly, and they all have such a magical feel about them. I finish them with a smile on my face, and a warmth in my heart that is so hard to truly explain. The Morning Gift is one of those books that seems to slowly sneak up on you and you just don't see it coming. It had a slow start and I will admit to struggling with it at first. Eva Ibbotson was born in Vienna, and had to flee the country herself when the Nazis invaded. So it is understandable why she wants us to feel like we really get a true look at that part of history.
She doesn't quickly brush over it, she gives us a rich and detailed view of Vienna, of the treatment of Jews during that time, and the horrifying reality of having to flee from your home.
The romance in this is very subtle and slow building. Our two characters seem completely oblivious of their own feelings for the longest time, which feels both totally adorable and totally frustrating. The books slow start is made up for in the second half, when the pace really picks up and the rest of the book felt like it flew by in no time at all. I got ridiculously caught up in the story and had to see it through till the end, I couldn't step away and come back to it.
And I was so pleased by it all when I finished. If you're someone who appreciates historical fiction, with a slow building and very subtle romance, then this is definitely the book for you.
Apr 01, Chelsea rated it really liked it Shelves: Another charming read from Ibbotson. I know I keep using "charming" to describe her works, but I'm not sure how else to put it. They're fun, old fashioned, sweet, funny, and altogether delightful: I found myself skimming in this one a little bit, something I didn't do with any of the other Ibbotson books I've read, which I'm attributing to having read four of her books in the span of about three months.
Her writing style and themes are consistent enough that I had some deja vu m Another charming read from Ibbotson. Her writing style and themes are consistent enough that I had some deja vu moments by the fourth book in a row. The solution? Spread them out a bit. Standard Eva Ibbotson fare and mostly fine-ish if a bit instalove-y until page , at which point her typical misunderstandings-that-could-be-resolved-very-easily-with-a-simple-conversation just got too ridiculous to take even slightly seriously.
Sep 24, Navjeet rated it really liked it Shelves: Cute romance story. I really didn't expect myself to enjoy it but I ended up finishing it in one night. This is such a wonderfully indulgent, comforting read. This is what a romance novel should feel like. Plus - female scientists! Oct 06, Karissa rated it it was ok. The story just starts out too slowly and wanders too much. Ruth lives in Vienna and worships the wonderful pianist Heini who she assists in all things and is destined to marry.
Then everything changes when Hilter invades Austria and Ruth and her family are forced to flee. Ruth is supposed to be on her way to University in England and meet her parents there.
However things get all botched up and Ruth ends up trapped in Vienna. While there she meets the Quin Sommerset a young professor whom was a family friend when Ruth was younger. Quin has British citizenship and suggests that he and Ruth get married as a way to get her out of Austria and to London where it is safe.
Then when they arrive in London they will annul the marriage. However things get complicated when the marriage is more difficult to annul than expected, Ruth ends up with Quin as her professor, and Heini arrives expecting to marry Ruth. The first or so pages of this book were very difficult to get through.
A ton of characters and places and names are thrown at the reader and they are only looslely connected. A lot of this could have been left out of the story and it would have been a much better book. As the book continues it focuses more on the main character, Ruth, the story gets much more engaging. Ruth is a magical character, she sees so much joy in everything and is just so full of life.
I loved reading about her. I also loved how she was determined to make it through University and make it through the Natural Sciences. This book is a book full of wonderful people and especially strong woman characters; it was a joy to read about these people. I think the relationship between Quin and Ruth could have been much more well done. The two skate around each other forever, barely even speaking, then suddenly BAM!
It was a bit awkward and unbelievable. Overall this was an okay book. The first half was awful and slow and ponderous to get through; I also stopped reading it. The second half was much more engaging and interesting and I enjoyed it a lot. I wish the story had been better paced and that the relationship between Quin and Ruth had been better developed.
Jul 13, Jake Rideout rated it really liked it. I really liked this book, and the main character reminded me of my friend Julia from college. It's about a girl, Ruth, whose father is the dean of paleontology at a Viennese University. At the start of Hitler's reign, he is replaced with a non-Jew and his family flees to England. However, Ruth is sent ahead on a student visa and doesn't make it across the border because she has already been caught at political rallies and has been red flagged.
She waits until her family leaves and then returns t I really liked this book, and the main character reminded me of my friend Julia from college. She waits until her family leaves and then returns to their apartment, where she is found by Quinton Sommerville, a former student of her father's.
In order to smuggle her across the border, Professor Sommerville marries Ruth and she becomes a British citizen. Once in England, they part ways and Ruth applies herself to raising money for a piano for her pianist fiance.
This being a romance novel of sorts, you can probably predict the ending--but you'll only be partially right. Eva throws in a mini twist, which I appreciated. I liked this book.
It was well-written, especially for a romance, and I liked Ruth a lot. I was glad to have it on hand when I needed something light but not too trashy. Dec 01, Michelle rated it it was ok Shelves: I am actually quite disappointed in this book. I read "A Song for Summer" and loved it and was excited to get my hands on another of Ibbotson's books.
My main complaint was that I felt like I had read the story before -- a sweeter, more compelling version with characters I found more honest and likable.
I actually loved some of the secondary characters but not Ruth and Quin so much. I mean Ruth had this amazing life growing up around these amazingly smart people and living by the sea in Austria I am actually quite disappointed in this book. I mean Ruth had this amazing life growing up around these amazingly smart people and living by the sea in Austria and then she is impressed with one standoffish British guy with a little bit of money and a large estate of course.
And to top it all off, I never could understand why the characters all loved Ruth so much. Okay, so she has long flowing blond hair. Anything else?
She basically seemed like a piece of wood to me. I finished the book mostly for that reason alone. And I found typos. So that was another downer. View all 6 comments. Aug 02, Leita Lyn rated it it was amazing. This was the very first adult book I had read of Eva Ibbotson.
When I finished, I was absolutely blown away. All my life I thought that I wanted to be an author. Every book I read just further proved that I could write like the best of them and that I too could be successful.
I cannot imagine a more purely beautiful, intelligent, humorous, complex novel than this, all of the above are absolute compliments. Ibbotson has forever cha This was the very first adult book I had read of Eva Ibbotson. Ibbotson has forever changed my view on the very art of writing and the romance novel, for she embodies it.
I highly, highly recommend this exquisite piece of literature to anyone waiting to have their soul swept of its feet. Ruth,an Austrian girl,faces a series of events after the Nazi invasion and this leads her to a life-changing experience. She adores Heini Radik, a Hungarian pianist who along with her parents is separated from her during the invasion. She is rescued and reunited by a Professor Sommerville who inevitably falls in love with, building a love triangle.
Yet again Eva Ibottson captures her readers with her beautiful story, which kept me turning pages. The tension of the war, disintegrating living situa Ruth,an Austrian girl,faces a series of events after the Nazi invasion and this leads her to a life-changing experience.
The tension of the war, disintegrating living situation and the love is woven so well! I really loved the book!! Sep 12, Em rated it really liked it.
I'm such a sucker for romances. This book was good, but very frustrating. I just wanted to know that everything turned out all right, and it took a long time to get to that point.
I was almost tempted to cheat and read the last chapter which I never do but I didn't, although I might have skimmed that last few chapters. All in all a very fun read: It was a long read but I enjoyed every funny emotional witty detail in it. This book you like because of its characters rather than its events. Although I like it very much there are some issues that bothers me. Second it was the talk about the war and how they felt during it and how Britain took the refugees and they hated what Hitler did to them However, I found this book enchanting.
This was a reread for me, as I loved this author when I was younger. However, I was not so in love with this book this time around. Jan 19, Alaina rated it liked it. I stole this from my sister while she is gone thanks! Not my fav but still hilarious with amazing characters, both main and side.
Would have given it four but the ending soured it for me. The Morning Gift was originally written in the s for an adult readership but then, to the author's surprise, reissued as a teen read in presumably slightly revised then by the author, as a copyright notice suggests.
I can see how the temptation to repackage may have arisen: But within the Boy Meets Girl trope, where the course of true love rarely runs smooth, there is so much more to enjoy. For a start, there's a generous dose of autobiographical detail that lends both honesty and authenticity to the narrative. The Morning Gift opens with a paean to Vienna, "a city of myths" from which "thirteen nationalities were governed" and where music and psychology and artists and philosophers reigned supreme.
Until the coming of the Nazis. Ruth Berger like the real-life Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner, as Eva Ibbotson was then came from academic non-practising Jewish stock, and had fallen in love with promising young Hungarian pianist Heini Radek.
Ruth returns to the family apartment to find it abandoned, soon to be trashed; her extended family has fled to England, her boyfriend to Hungary, but she has been kicked off a train as she is unable to prove she hasn't been politically active.
At this point Professor Quinton Somerville, an old friend of the family from England, arrives at the apartment to hear a bird-like tune sadly played over and over again on a piano. This is the Rondo theme from Mozart's G major Piano Concerto K, the 'Starling', which Mozart had taught a caged starling though the bird always added the pause and the G sharp and which Ruth is despondently picking out on the piano keys. To get Ruth safely abroad to England he proposes a solution, that they partake in a so-called morganatic marriage.
Quin explains it thus: It's a gift given the morning after the bridal night with which the husband, by bestowing it, frees himself from any liability to the wife Or so runs the theory. I can't tell you how delighted and moved I was by this novel. Not only Ruth, a starling who has her own voice, but a range of believable characters, some flawed but all human; a timescale that, beginning before and ending after the war, captures societies in transition; a treatment that doesn't neglect to address the inevitable prejudices that rear up when refugees and migrants appear in communities; an examination of tensions and class divisions between not just the haves and have-nots but also the intelligentsia, landed gentry and the upwardly-thrusting nouveau riche.
Above all, Ibbotson has melded it all together with a sure touch that expertly paces the ups and downs of relationships and charts the misunderstandings, all against a background of distinctive settings and landscapes -- Vienna before and during the Anschluss, Belsize Park and the fictional Thameside University in London, and the equally fictional ancestral pile of Bowmont on the Northumbrian coast.
Weaving through all like themes in a composition are Ibbotson's own loves: And this brings us back to the iridescent starling, for the European bird which gave its name to one of Mozart's concertos is of course, where Britain is concerned, usually a migrant that spends the winters in the UK in large gregarious flocks.
Some may cavil at the noise they produce and regard them as pests; others instead marvel at their spectacular murmurations which can so uplift the heart and enrich our experience. I know which group I belong to. Aug 20, Amy rated it did not like it Shelves: A marriage of convenience? Characters in academia? World War 2? The Morning Gift had so much to offer and though I did not expect much, I hoped for an enjoyable, light read.
Done right, it could have been. Done right, it might have been a beautiful romantic story that intertwines music and paleontology and Vienna. While several factors played into the one star rating, the biggest thing for me was how big of a theme sex plays throughout.
I've come to expect something B A marriage of convenience? But whether it is the main character being pressured into it from her boyfriend, her misunderstandings about a one night stand, or even the general inundation of it throughout the pages everything from bugs not mating to older women shuddering over the memory of their wedding night to the heroine's almost obsessive commentary on Freud the book is just full of the act and thought of sex.
It isn't romantic. It is more of 'Oh, you'll know who you love based on who you can sleep with. Ruth Berger, the heroine, is a Mary Sue who I at least appreciated until the end. Then I simply gave up on her.
Also the fact that she manages to not talk to Quin and resolve their differences after that. Also that she decides to go have her baby and like, what? Not tell him? Not tell her parents? Not tell his lawyer? I'm totally for her having the kid but it made no sense that she would just drop everything and hide. This girl faced the Nazis, for heaven's sake. Also, I got irritated with all the references even after he was married to Ruth!
I hated Heini. I hated him from the start. Their relationship kind of reminded me of Skip Beat! Anyway, while the writing was charming as usual, I hated the last quarter of the book.
Readers Also Enjoyed. Young Adult. About Eva Ibbotson. Eva Ibbotson. Eva Ibbotson born Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner was a British novelist specializing in romance and children's fantasy. She was born in Vienna, Austria, in When Hitler came into power, her family moved to England. She attended Bedford College, graduating in ; Cambridge University from ; and the University of Durham, from which she graduated with a diploma in education in Ibbotson had intended to be a physiologist, but was put off by the amount of animal testing that she would have to do.
Instead, she married and raised a family, returning to school to become a teacher in the s.