Sunday, July 26, 2015

Nelia Gardner White

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.

[McCall's August 1937]

Thank you for letting me have a chance to introduce a beloved author from the past. 

Is there a particular author that you wish more people knew about? One that you would like for more people to discover? 

Happy reading to you!


  1. Her words are very descriptive and would settle the reader, into the place and the time and even, the room. Sounding very calming.

    I can see reading such books, when the weather has turned colder... And the shades need to be closed earlier... And maybe a fire in the fireplace... A cozy time of year, for me.... Who does not mourn earlier twilight, as so many do. :-)

    Yes, I see reading them and settling into them, then..... And so, I must make a note, to remember. :-)

    I fully understand your need, to spread the word, about a beloved author. And aren't we lucky, to have our blogs, on which to do so?

    Gentle hugs.

  2. she is a master at description isn't she? i wanted to walk into each one and keep reading. and that's always the first test for me!
    and amazing that 'the spare room' is your favorite... because it struck me even in the picture... "i want to read that one"
    'she loved autumn'... 'compact. round as a bird' ... oh. my. yes.
    and i followed the link back to across the way and read it AND every comment.
    and there i was. and have i read her yet? NO! so NOW i will for sure!
    i have written her name down this time and the titles i want and i'll check at the library to see if they have her there. our library has lots of older books.
    if i don't write anything down now it is lost to me. probably why i didn't find her before. :)
    i dearly would love to read 'the recipe' that becky spoke of that you wrote.
    and you are the particular author i wish more people knew about. XOXOXO♥

  3. Very descriptive reader! Thank you for sharing something/someone who means so much to you. :)

  4. Great reading for my winter days. I appreciate how the story is described in detail and the review is always appreciated. I hope Milo is doing well. our fur babies are so important to us. Yes, we do love our Schnauzers. Chloe is feeling much better today. Thanks for the info about the meds. Maybe Lacy can get some help.

  5. Dewena, on July 20th in a blog post I wrote about a Nelia Gardner White short story in Family Circle Magazine from the 1950s. It's called Upon a Peak in Darien. After seeing your recommendation of this author I'll go back and read the whole thing.

  6. Have you read any Gladys Taber books? They are wonderful, and so great to read someone who is writing about things so simple as a dishwasher being a "miracle" to a housewife in the 1950's...written in the moment about those things which were happening to/ by someone actually living them. The feel and tone in the writing is so different than someone writing about it today, and attempting to tell us what it was like living in those times.

    1. Hi Chris, yes, love, love, love Gladys Taber! I felt like she was my mentor for many years. One of my most admired women ever.

  7. Yes, Gladys Taber is a favorite and have collected almost all of her books. She's not 50's but Alexandra Stoddard is another favorite and Susan Branch...again not 50's. Dewena, thank you for this introduction; she's now on my 'watch list'.

  8. I really enjoyed the excerpts - I haven't read a book in so long due to the internet and always researching stuff....but I might be tempted. I love the way she writes.

  9. Hi,
    I also am a fan of Gladys Taber. I thought of her as I was reading your post.
    Thank you for sharing today.

  10. I have to admit I rarely read fiction. But if it's something that I could read with my daughter when she is older than I am in.

  11. I have a stack of books to finish before summer's end, but our library has "The Spare Room" and I will pick it up to read in September when my own spare room will be full of Australians.

  12. I have never heard of her but the excerpts seem wonderful! She writes very descriptively and you can envision everything she is talking about. I enjoy reading authors of all time periods. I've read several books from the 50s and have quite enjoyed them! I may have to give one of these a try...which one would you suggest as a first read for her?

  13. Thank you for introducing me to a new author. I need to find these books now. I hope you have a good week.

  14. I do believe you may be the author I wish others knew about Dewena.

    Our library, a mere 500 sq ft if that, probably doesn't have any of her books, but perhaps they can get them. I'll have to find out when they're open on any of the 12 hours a week (and I'm not kidding). ;)

    Now I better go put her name in my Evernote app or for sure I will forget!

  15. She sounds like a wonderful author, Dewena. I have to tell Nel, who is the book lover in the family. I think that it's great that you love books so much. I bet you have a library filled with them. I must start reading a good book. Thanks for encouraging me to do so.

    love, ~Sheri

  16. Thank you for the introduction, Dewena! I enjoyed that last excerpt - it hooked me in immediately!

  17. As Doreen said... You're the author I would recommend :)

    I'm going to look up these books. They sound wonderful.


  18. I am not familiar with her but will see if I can find her books at the library :)