The Morning Gift is a charming historical romance first published in the U.S. in 1985, and probably in England prior to that. In style, it has an old-fashioned feel, like something that may have been written right after WWII. The current edition was published by Speak, a teen imprint of Penguin-Puffin. They’ve also released several more of Eva Ibbotson’s historical romances, first published as adult books, for the YA market. I think these novels are a great addition to their list, and may introduce teen readers to this writer. Born in 1925, Ms. Ibbotson is still writing today–she published a book in 2008 called The Dragonfly Pool, more for a middle grade audience. It, too, takes place during the war. She is well known for her books Journey to the River Sea and The Secret of Platform 13, among many others.
Back to The Morning Gift. It tells the story of Ruth Berger, a young Jewish girl living in Vienna when Hitler first comes to power. She is left behind when the rest of her family flees, because of some political activism she had been involved in. In sweeps the dashing Quinton Somerville, brilliant scholar, paleontologist, and adventurer; and when all his other attempts to get her out of the country fail, he marries her. The marriage will be quickly annulled once Ruth is safely settled in Britain, since she is the devoted girlfriend of a soon to be world famous pianist.
Ruth and Quin had first met when she was a child and Quin was a protegee of her father, a highly regarded professor of paleontology in Vienna. Several years later Quin returns to Vienna to accept an award, only to discover that Professor Berger has been forced out. When Quin stops by the Berger home, he finds Ruth, despondent and inventing crazy schemes to somehow get herself to England and join her frantic family.
The book is quite long, 410 pages, and has a large cast of characters. Ruth’s family, extended family, many friends of her parents, as well as the new friends she makes when she enrolls in a university, and that’s not everybody! We know it’s inevitable that Ruth and Quin will end up together, although they have many obstacles in their path: Ruth’s pianist boyfriend Heini, the single-minded daughter of the Vice Chancellor who has set her cap for Quin, Ruth’s own stubbornness, and various misunderstandings between them, to name a few.
Ruth’s sweetness at times strains believability. She reminds me in one way of Anne of Green Gables–she talks incessantly. But I couldn’t help liking her. I actually liked Quin better, maybe because he was older and more mature. Overall, theirs is a very sweet romance.
I’m looking forward to reading more of these re-released books. What do you think? With Valentine’s Day coming up, shouldn’t a good romance be on your nightstand?