Book Beginnings: Westwood by Stella Gibbons

One of the books I’m currently reading is Westwood by Stella Gibbons. It begins:

London was beautiful that summer. In the poor streets the people made an open-air life for themselves under the blue sky as if they were living in a warmer climate. Old men sat on the fallen masonry and smoked their pipes and talked about the war, while women stood patiently in the shops or round the stalls selling large fresh vegetables, ceaselessly talking. (page 1)

Written in 1946 this is set in wartime London, just after the Blitz. In the next paragraphs the ruins of bombed houses are described surrounded by deep pools of water (from the fire-fighters), ducks on the pools, willow-herb growing where houses once stood, foxes raiding gardens, a hawk flying over the city –

London in ruin was beautiful as a city in a dream. (page 2)

I love the way Gibbons sets the scene, showing the effects of war. It’s a novel about ordinary people and what it was like to live then, during the war. I haven’t read much further on and I’m hoping it will live up to its opening.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.

6 thoughts on “Book Beginnings: Westwood by Stella Gibbons”

  1. Margaret – Thanks for sharing this. That beginning draws me in, too. I like historical novels very much, and I’ll be interested to see what you think of the rest of the book.

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  2. I’ve recently finished Westwood and absolutely agree with you about Gibbons’ way with a scene. There was quite the movie playing in my head the whole time I was reading!

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  3. This opening evokes a peaceful scene although London is in ruin after the Blitz. However, there’s a dream-like quality in the description and the reader would be conscious of the storms of war that went before. I wonder what happens next?

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