I'm going to do my best to sell at least one of you dear readers on Nelia Gardner White's books. If I can't, that's okay, but if even one of you enjoys novels written in the 1950s and is intrigued enough to search them out, it will be worth it.
Nelia Gardner White was compared in her day to Katherine Mansfield. I have eight of her novels and would buy the others if they weren't so rare and expensive.
Let's get right down to it with excerpts from four of my favorite White books:
Woman at the Window (1951)
It was peaceful there in the bright room. Everything shone there, the silver tea things, the knobs on the fenders, the old gold clock with cherubs on the mantel, the sapphire ring on Mrs. Suydam's hand, the arms of the deep leather chair where the doctor sat. But the light was brightest on Anna Suydam, sitting there in the wheel chair. She had on a jacket of blue brocade that Mrs. Suydam had made from an old party dress. The blue was grayed down to warmness and the silver thread that ran through it was a companion to the silver of the tea things. But in her face the light concentrated, in that thin triangular face with the golden-brown eyes looking around at them all with such love, such an effect of saying, These are my very best people. this is what I like, sitting here talking with my own people.
"The Doctor's Wife" novela from The Merry Month of May (1952)
Soon they were in the dining room eating supper. The doctor's wife sat where she could look at the tall, homely old Dutch cupboard. It always pleased her senses, though she didn't quite know why. It was not elegant, but there was something about it and the treasured dishes that was warm and satisfying. Micah and Nell Peel were going after supper. They were not even staying the night. The doctor's wife felt she must hold herself together for this last hour. There was just this meal to get through.
The Thorn Tree (1955)
In the chill of the late November afternoon Marcy and David Doorn stood beside their sister's house. They had come in frantic haste, in their hearts identical sensations of fear, incredulity, horror. They had walked up and down, up and down, in some village, waiting for a car repair, unable to talk, desperately anxious to have the repairs done, to be on their way again. Now they were here, but for a moment they stood, thrust out by some curious silence that surrounded the house, took in the whole landscape. Across the road rose a slope where once sheep had grazed. There were no sheep now, no leaves, no sign of life anywhere. All that the hill pasture held was thorn trees, with their innumerable gray and ghostly branches.
If I had a favorite Nelia Gardner White book, this next one would be it:
The Spare Room (1954)
It was early November when the young man came. It was a somber morning with the trees stripped bare and the leaves dead brown in all the ditches. In the curving garden border behind the old Pilchard house on Sassafras Road, five miles from the village, even the chrysanthemums had blackened stalks and there was not one last red leaf in the woodbine on the stone walls beyond the garden.
Miss Ann Pilchard, town nurse for old Wickham, moved about the kitchen getting her hearty breakfast. She was not depressed by the autumnal grays and blacks of the morning. She liked autumn. On the kitchen table was a brown pitcher filled with milkweed. Miss Pilchard had a secret life wherein she wrote a weekly column called "Nature Notes from Stub Hill" for the Penfield County Register, and this week she planned to write on the milkweed.
Compact, round as a bird, tight-pressed into the blue gingham which was her uniform till the snows came, Miss Pilchard pushed forward the oatmeal on the black stove, filled the two-cup coffee pot. And as she bustled about she sang a morning hymn to the milkweed. It was a habit of hers, to hymn her way through breakfast. She had a big voice which she liked to let out to the full when she was alone.
And here is a review I wrote at my former blog, Across the Way, of The Pink House, (1950) for any reader I haven't already lost in my attempt to spread the word about this forgotten author, Nelia Gardner White.