One of my 2021 Reading Resolutions is to find more comfort reads and since Eva Ibbotson described herself as trying to write the sort of stories that people would like to read while they have the flu, she seemed like a good place to start. This turned out to be an excellent decision. Not only that but this collection of short fiction features at least five stories which hinge around a Christmas scene, making for a perfect pick for Blogmas. Warm-hearted and full of love, A Glove Shop in Vienna is a book to which I will definitely be returning.
The collection has an old-fashioned feel and although I read that it was published in 1984, I would have guessed more around the 1950s or 60s. Several of the stories are set during one of the world wars or take place during the grand days of Old Vienna. In terms of tone, there is something slightly peculiar going on. It is always a great love, the characters are always loyal and true and their happy ending always feels assured. Yet in the background to Ibbotson’s narration there is a quiet cynicism. She is encouraging us to believe in these starry-eyed stories because deep down we know that such things are not true. These are fairytales for grown-ups.
I had so many ‘favourite’ moments in this book. In ‘Vicky’s Christmas Angel’, the titular Vicky comes to see that those responsible for Christmas magic may look rather different than you expect. In ‘A Question of Riches’, young Jeremy knows exactly where he is best loved. In ‘The Little Countess’, a straight-talking English governess sets a family of Russian aristocrats on the right path. And ‘A Dark-Haired Daughter’ captures such a truth about being an expectant mother. Unusually for a collection of short fiction, I enjoyed every story.
It was funny to see peeks from Ibbotson’s children’s fiction scattered across the collection. Osmandine and several other female lead characters seemed reminiscent of Belladonna from Which Witch? But for the first time, I got to appreciate her as an adult writer. A Glove Shop in Vienna has Ibbotson’s same trademark elegance and wit which first drew me in as a child. But these are stories written to enchant adults. Tired adults going into their third national lockdown. Adults who want to dream of ballerinas in Moscow or finding true love in a glove shop in Vienna. Perfect reading for cold grey days – I can already think of at least three friends who deserve a copy.
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Published by Bello on May 22nd 2014
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