The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson

You can actually find 3 copies of this book in my family. My mother’s copy, my sister’s and my own copy. My mother’s copy is the one that is probably in the worst condition as it has been read by all three of us multiple times while we still lived under the same roof. It still gets read whenever my sister or I stay at my dad’s house. My sister’s copy is probably in excellent condition as she is one of those tidy readers. She can be a bit OCD when it comes to books. So much so, that at the end of her teens and in her early twenties she refused to lend books to either me or my mother for fear of the damage we might cause to her precious books. My mum was and I am a very messy reader. You can see by the shabby state of the book whether I liked it or not. I bend books to a point that they almost fall apart (oh that reminds me of another family favourite Desirée by Annemarie Selinko which is actually falling apart – highly recommend this one too, I can write about it if you want me to). I swear to you I can get dog ears into hardcovers. If I really, really like a book I sleep, eat and travel with it. If it is sad you will find curly pages in it caused by a flood of tears (best example is Ein Meer voller Sterne by Sigrid Zeevaert which I stole from my friend L and never gave back). The reason we have now 3 copies in the family is that my mother thought we could not live in a house that was without it, so when first my sister and eventually I moved out, she went out and bought us each a copy and let me tell you it is the one book that never catches dust. Enough said about our love for the book, lets get to its content!

The Morning Gift by late Austrian-English writer Eva Ibbotson was first published in 1993. Although ficticious by nature it includes many of her own experiences made as a Holocaust refugee living in England. The Morning Gift tells the story of young student Ruth Berger, who is stopped at the border despite holding a valid student visa, she returns to Vienna only to find her home empty and ransacked with her family save in London. At her home she encounters a former friend and colleague of her father, Professor Quinton Somerville, who came to Vienna for an award ceremony. He is determined to get her to safety and after various attempts fail – one rather funny incident is the moment he drags her off a train after listening to her insane plans of crossing into Switzerland via the Alps on foot – his only option is to marry her and get her to England on his passport. The idea is to annul the marriage once she has settled in England but you can guess that it doesn’t go that smoothly. I will stop here as I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Just let me tell you that this book may sound like just another cheesy dime novel but it isn’t. Its PG13 status is the reason you will find it now in the young adult section of your bookstore (although it is an adult book). Despite the rather obvious outcome of the novel, it first takes you on a wonderful, witty, sometimes geeky journey through the Jewish diaspora in London, the English university world with all its adoring stereotypes and much more. It is full of Goethe, Mozart, Freud (especially Freud) and Liszt. It is the perfect Sunday read to forget everything else around you (or the perfect weekend read if you are a slow reader or if you happen to be reliable and not simply forget that there is a world around you which includes a toilet). It is one of those books that makes you all happy inside and you will lie on your bed or sofa and wonder what happens to your characters after the final scene.

Find a copy, take it home and enjoy!

PS you will understand my choice of header pic (which I stole here) once you’ve read the book.

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