REVIEW: The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson

The Morning Gift (Ulverscroft Large Print Series)

The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson was a joy to read. The prologue sets up the characters very nicely starting with our heroine, Ruth Berger who starts the story off as young girl curious about the world around her and we watch her grow up to be this passionate young woman in love with a pianist named Heini, who makes her his “starling”.

British paleontologist Quinton Somerville is a colleague of Ruth’s father, who comes to briefly visit the Berger’s one summer. Quinton is a brilliant young scientist/student whose reputation is well known around the world. The Bergers are a close knit family with their daughter Ruth being the center of their world. Life is good until Hitler marches into Vienna and everything changes forever.

After the Nazi’s march into Vienna, the family makes arrangements to leave never realizing that Ruth is not able to secure a passport to leave Vienna due to her political views. Quinton, visiting Vienna to receive an honorary degree realizes that his colleague and esteemed friend has been let go. Furious, he declines the awards dinner looking for the Bergers only to find that the Bergers had left everything behind in their home – including Ruth who is hiding there until she is able to find another place to stay.

Quinton immediately tries to figure out a way to get Ruth out of Vienna and fails to get her a passport. Desperate, Quinton offers Ruth “the morning gift” of departing and seeking a annulment once they reach England. It was the only option available to make her a British citizen. Once Ruth gets to England and settles in, she is encouraged to attend University. When she enrolls, Ruth finds that she is being transferred to Thameside where Quinton lectures. Ruth signs up for the paleontology class that Quinton teaches and the talk of Quinton’s reputation makes for much excitement and anticipation. Ruth is also very nervous at seeing Quinton  since both agreed not to see each other again.

Students and staff as well as other society folks come to Quinton’s lectures. As well as the Vice Chancellor’s daughter Verena Plackett who always seem to have a seat reserved for her in each of her classes except Professor Quinton’s class where it is jam packed. When Quinton gets back from his expedition to give his first lecture, Ruth tries to be inconspicuous but Quinton immediately spots her in the back row. He halts for only a second and then proceeds to lecture. Ruth is captivated by him. Meanwhile, Quinton’s lawyer, Mr. Proudfoot announces to Quinton that an annulment is not so easy to procure in England and goes about trying to find some way for the two to divorce.

Meanwhile at Thameside, possible complications arise when the two of them are together and Quinton reluctantly lets her stay in college with him and finds that Ruth is very well accepted here with the students as well as the staff. Ruth never realizes how popular Quinton is or how important he is as a staff member of Thameside. It is while Quinton is away that Ruth learns a lot about Quinton and how well respected he is as a scientist – and also a great catch, too.

Ruth’s rival in the course is Verena Plackett, the Vice Chancellor’s daughter who snubs her as a lab partner on the first day of class. Verena is this annoying stuck up society girl who after each lecture, thanks her professors on behalf of her parents. She reads all the right books and studies hard – a brain whose ambition it is to snare Quinton Sommerville since he is the “right sort of people” that her family is searching for, for their daughter. As I mentioned earlier, Verena and her mother have their sights set on Quinton Sommerville and it is fun watching Verena try to get Quinton’s attention while he continues to be indifferent to her.

Quinton and Ruth don’t really get any privacy together until they go to their field course in Northumberland – Bowmont which is Quinton’s home. Both protagonists open up to each other and fall in love. Their romance is very believable and magical in a way. There is one memorable scene when  Quinton rushes to his lawyer to say that he wants to stay married to his wife.  Whatta guy. I found Quinton the kind of hero that I love: smart, well respected among his peers, always helpful (never refusing refugees to University or help them find work) and seems oblivious to his reputation and his good looks. one of the best heroes I’ve read in a long time.

This was a very engrossing read. The characterizations were well fleshed out. You knew these people. Ruth and Quinton both were memorable but it is Ruth who really shines. When she gets to England, she anticipates Heini, her fiance’ and tries to take up a collection for his piano. Working at the Willow Tea Room – everybody knows about Heini and his piano, thanks to Ruth. Ruth is a very talkative young woman who makes friends easily and just has this bubbly nature about her. I liked her a lot.

As refugee’s, her family made due with what they had despite that they are living well below what they were used to in Vienna. The anguish the Berger’s felt when they learned their daughter was still in Vienna was crushing and their joy at seeing her again – was blinding. It’s clear that their future is in their daughter, Ruth. And they go out of their way for the things that matter for their daughter’s acceptance by her peers. The Morning Gift is unfortunately out of print. However, it’s not a perfect book. There were times I could have put it down and forgot about it. The book did make quite a few plot turns that were unpredictable and it is only when Quinton and Ruth are finally together in England – that I got hooked into the story. The dialogue was nice, the writing was very fluid and ambitious (only words that come to mind). It is not a book that will have universal appeal but for me it was a great find. I enjoyed it very much.

Added note: Quinton Sommerville is pretty young when he first meets the Bergers in Vienna. I didn’t want other readers to think that he was too much older than Ruth when they meet again. I’m still learning to write reviews with as much clarity as possible. This is not a May/December romance for those who are averse to such plots.

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About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Grade B Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to REVIEW: The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson

  1. Pingback: Reader News: Eva Ibbotson's Older Titles Now Available | avidbookreader.com

  2. tina says:

    i have read this book and had the same idea with you. it is a great story with the love between a men and a women who didnt realise their true love until one night they met at quin’s apartment. that moment is so beautiful. finally after a long journey, they had found their true love, their real fade. the chapter which describes that situation is very great indeed. and i enjoy it so much.
    However, their are more than 20 chapter but the series of situations happen slowly and there is no struggle event at all until the nearly last chapter where Quin and Ruth misunderstand each other. And i kinda think that although Ruth is beautiful, kind, intelligient, she still mess up with such a selfish guy like Heinie. i can’t figure out how, and why she can devote everything for him( except one thing) without realising he was a bastard. there is no worth at all. despite all her effort to make him happy, Heinie seems like to love his piano more than anything and think that all things ruth and her family had done for him are their duty. Finally, Ruth had realised her true love and dumped him just a second before he sail to USA. it was a pleasure moment when seeing this man deserve all such things.
    Anyway, the morning gift is a great story. i recommand people who like love story to read this book ^^

  3. Avid Reader says:

    I agree Tina, this is a good book.

  4. Mimi says:

    Tina, I also agree but I think that Ruth’s kind-to-a-fault nature makes her slightly oblivious to Heini’s faults. All in all I don’t think she ever truly loved HIM but his music. The difference is subtle and even she didn’t realize it until they were alone in her friends apartment. On that not he IS a selfish bastard to ask that of her without the intention of marring her, in that time period. I mean lok at what happened to her when she did get pregnant.

  5. VL says:

    i’m still reading this book and thoroughly enjoying, wanted to echo your sentiments on Quin as a hero, he reminds me of Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, both impress me as honorable men, on the same line of thought as you, both seem to carry on their activities without letting their status go to their head (more so Quin, who does seem to act oblivious of it 😀 ) I’m really looking forward to finishing the book!

  6. Avid Reader says:

    @VL: Glad to hear your enjoying this one. I have more Ibottson I’d like to read, hopefully soon. I think she is so underrated.

  7. viola says:

    This is one of the most lovely books I’ve read in a long time. I borrowed it from my friend a while back, and it wasn’t until I plucked it off her shelf that I remembered it. I have spent the last few days rereading it and I am captivated. My favourite moment is when Ruth and Quin finally become one; it is the realisation of their feelings that makes this story beautiful. Ibbotson’s writing style also flows and carries the story like a leaf in the wind. I think it was an interesting twist when Ruth left Belsize Park and Heini (this event had to happen however!); yet, it was welcomed and had me wanting to skip the pages to see the fate of Ruth and Quin’s creation. When he discovers her in the hospital and they are finally and openly married, I was ecstatic!

    The only fault I could find was that Ibbotson’s way of writing caused the events in the story to be dragged out; but on the other hand, this could be interpreted as attention to detail and establishing a believable setting and tone. This element also helped to intensify the anticipation that so heckles the reader as the pages turn, wanting that final realisation of love to burst out through the words on the page.

    This story, for me, is perfect. I couldn’t fault it.

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