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Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary

by Ruby Ferguson
Persephone book no:

52 53 54


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A Well Full of Leaves
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PREFACE BY CANDIA MCWILLIAM
224pp
ISBN 9781903155431

Like Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, this 1937 novel is a fairy tale for grown-ups, but one 'with an uneasy crash into social reality', as Candia McWilliam puts it in her preface.

It begins when Lady Rose Targenet, born in the 1850s, becomes Lady Galowrie when she is 19 and, suitably, marries Sir Hector, the owner of the estate next to 'Keepsfield', the palatial Scottish mansion where she lives. Some years later, she goes into Edinburgh to see her lawyer - and meets the love of her life on a park bench in Princes Street Gardens...

Candia McWilliam adds, 'It's a little book about dreams and the hard world of money and position and their relations to one another. It's also a love story and a love letter - to Scotland'.  We were not surprised to be told, by Ruby Ferguson's granddaughter, that the then Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, loved the book so much that she invited its author to a luncheon at Buckingham Palace and begged her for a sequel.

Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary has an unusually captivating quality; the Guardian called it 'a curious, affecting confection of high Scots romance and social realism.'

Endpaper

We chose this 1937 cotton printed dress fabric, made for the Calico Printers Association, because the fairy tale element of the 'Masqueraders' (as the fabric is called) suited Lady Rose so admirably, hinging as it does on themes of disguise and changed identity. And the flower in the frieze might be roses.

Picture Caption

‘Keepsfield’, the house in Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary, is obviously not a ‘real’ house; but Hopetoun has many similarities to it.


Read What Readers Say

Antoniette Garisto via email

An elegantly written fable with far more complex issues underneath. The questions of class and gender are explored in surprising ways. In many ways, it’s a cautionary tale for women, particularly those of elevated birth at the time. It is rich with beautiful, descriptive passages and indeed is a love letter to Scotland. It has stayed with me beyond the final page.

cheriebooksreadthisyear via Instagram

Charming, lovely, I really enjoyed it and got totally swept up in it. Pure escapism which is just what I needed.

bagfullofbooks via Instagram

Although a sweet fairytale on the surface, the story speaks of many deep-rooted societal issues, class snobbery being one of them. ‘Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary’ also raises the question whether it is worth shunning home and hearth, and one’s family, for the sake of true love. As with all good books, Ruby Ferguson leaves this point as an open-ended question. Full of beautiful descriptive writing, this is a sweet love letter to Scotland and so much more. The story aims to address prejudice regarding class consciousness and certainly reaffirms the belief that marrying for love is of paramount importance.

whilereadaingandwalking via Instagram

A wonderful novel, well-written, a quick read that I found engaging, and that I was quickly invested in. It reflects wonderfully and complexly on the state of aristocratic women in the Victorian era, and the story is satisfyingly told.

Categories: Love Story Scotland

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