The Four Graces is another winner from D.E. Stevenson. It isn't technically a sequel to the third Miss Buncle book, but it has some of the same characters (newlyweds Jane and Archie for example) and continues the saga of small-town English life during World War II. Although the gist of the story takes place in the home of Pastor Grace, there are side stories of clothing, food, and gas shortages, as well as a poignant tale of an evacuee child from London.
The vicar of Chevis Green is a widower with four daughters, each of whom is splendidly drawn by Stevenson with her own personality and challenges. Addie is serving the war effort by living and working in London. Liz is a "land girl", serving as a farm hand in place of a young man who has gone off to fight. Sal and Tilly live at home, helping their father with his parish responsibilities. Though a couple of the girls have love interests, this book cannot be classified as a romance. It doesn't really have much of a plot either. It's just a splendid recounting of every day life in an English town where people are trying to make the best of difficult times.
The friendly conversations, the bravery through hardships, and the literate dialogue make this book a treat. Stevenson did not write "Christian" novels (thank goodness!), but her characters were familiar with the scriptures and quote the Bible (as well as poems and works of literature) in casual conversation which I find delightful. In fact, the book is twice as funny if you catch the biblical allusions. (I could not read this in public places because I chortled too loudly.)
Some good quotes:
When Mrs. Smith meets Mr. Grace, she says she hopes is broad-minded. "No," he answered. "Not in the sense you mean. I have noticed that nowadays when people speak of being broad-minded they really mean muddleheaded, or lacking in principles...Nowadays people are anxious to appear worse then they are. It's a queer sort of inverted hypocrisy."
Sometimes the girls disagreed with each other and said so, making no bones about it, but they were so much in tune, and so fully in accord upon essentials that it did not matter how violently they disagreed upon nonessentials. In fact, a good hearty disagreement was welcome, adding spice to their talk.
"Books are people," smiled Miss Marks. "In every book worth reading, the author is there to meet you, to establish contact with you. He takes you into his confidence and reveals his thoughts to you."
This was my tenth Stevenson title, and definitely one of my favorites.