I just started reading ‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’ by Marghanita Laski… it has been a long time coming.

I first encountered this little book, when the title caught my eye, while looking through a Persephone Books catalog about three years ago. I had seen ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ at the Palace Theater, which I absolutely loved… such a delightful story and with Frances McDormand and Amy Adams, what’s not to love. I liked it so much, I went back the next night, and while walking to my car, I saw the book in the window of Griffin Bay Books. When I went back to buy the next day, it had been sold… apparently someone else liked the movie as much as I. GBB ordered the book and I was soon enjoying Winifred Watson’s delightful story.

Persephone Books of London, reprints neglected classics by 20th century (mostly women) writers, like Watson’s 1930 story. I ordered their catalog and that’s where I saw ‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’.  They currently have 95 books listed, and they are beautifully made.  The end papers feature a fabric print from the period the story takes place (‘the shiny cream curtains printed with huge pink roses’ p. 3).  And a bookmark germane to the story (‘berlin-wool cross-stitch embroidery that sprawled in bright gigantic roses over the shabby felt’ p.13).  Book #6 is described as a very scary  story.  It looked interesting.  I tried the library… I tried the Inter-Library-Loan… I tried Nowhere could I obtain the book. It was not available. So, over the last few years, when I would go to Amazon it would pop up sometimes (but never in stock… oh, there were some used copies somewhere for 35 or 40 bucks), as something I was interested in, you know, those helpful reminders. I get a new Persephone catalog twice a year, and this time I couldn’t take it any more and ordered it… it was only 12 plus 6 shipping, for a total of ₤18... I had no clue what that would be in $, but didn’t care and hit PayPal… it was $27.00.

‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’, starts in 1953, and is the story of a young woman of means, who is suffering from tuberculosis and confined to bed. She is finally well enough to be allowed to move into the parlor and lay upon a chaise-longue she had purchased in an antique store right before she became stricken. She falls asleep, and when she awakes, she finds herself in a dingy gas-lit room in 1864, on the same chaise-longue… although newer looking… being cared for by a brusque sister she does not know. She thinks herself in a dream and keeps trying to wake up. When she finally realizes she is awake, the terror sets in. I’m now on page 50 of 99… my head is drooping, I’m tired, time for bed.

Now, I’m in a dream. I have never had one like this… not my usual ‘Waiter’s Dream’ where I keep forgetting to wait on my tables, and then can’t find them… or the ‘Actor’s Dream’ where I forget to go onstage. No, this one is too real. It is hard to keep going and I force myself to wake up. I realized, that near the end of the dream I had started to analyze it as if writing a blog. Great, now I’m writing in my sleep… even organizing photos.

This dream starts out as a secret report on an Eastern European war-torn country, there is a triangular flag on the cover, I think red, green and yellow. Soon it shifts to Africa… the unnamed country ends in ‘ia’… and I am thinking Ethiopia. There is a rebel encampment, and in this dream a group of aid workers are lined up before the leaders. I am not there, but looking at this through newspaper or magazine photos. One photo shows them sitting in a row and the next is the same photo, but now they have a dot on their foreheads. They have been shot, and I am wondering if they will fall backward or forwards. What will the next photo be. It was terrifying. I wake up. It was 2:30 a.m., and it took a long time to go back to sleep. As I lay there thinking about this strange dream, I realized it had happened to my family.  My daughter’s  husband’s sister was killed in Somalia, when a bullet struck her as she was riding in a convoy to deliver aid to a remote village. Valerie was a 23-year-old nurse, from Dublin, working for an Irish aid agency called Concern.  A photo of her  laughing, surrounded by Somali women and children hangs in Ashley and Declan’s front room. Her senseless death in 1993 was of major importance to Ireland, with the President attending her funeral. It had put a face to the tragedy  of what was occurring in Somalia.

I always wonder what influences dreams. Sometimes it is obvious. I don’t really have nightmares… more annoyances really, like the waiter’s dream, although those can be a bitch. Did the story taking place on the chaise-longue start this terrifying dream? I don’t know. I had not thought of Valerie in a long time, although I know Declan does. And I’m sure she was terribly missed at the Christmas Table when they were in Dublin this year.

So, I’ll finish the story of the young woman on the Chaise-Longue today, only 49 pages to go and hope I am dream free tonight.

Here is where you can find a wonderful catalog… PERSEPHONE BOOKS

The photographs of Valerie were taken by John Trotter, a writer for the  Sacramento Bee, while on his second trip to Africa in 1992.  They were taken in Mogadishu during the first food distribution.  This was important, because the people were now able to prepare their own food, and not have to rely on feeding centers to cook it for them.  Valerie was in charge of the operation.  There were thousands of people there for food that day.  The photo with the boy, he liked, because her love showed thru her hands, and that had meaning.  The children at the center said those hands came from Ireland to help them, and they loved her and trusted her.   She was killed the following year on the way to help people.


Dec. 27, 2013

I always liked this post and thought I would share it with MOONSHINE  at yeah write weekly writing… I wrote this almost two years ago.  Persephone Books now lists 104 titles in their catalog. I finished the story.  It was heart-wrenching, terrifying and very disturbing.  I was not disappointed I had finally read it.


My Random Musings




For my friends at AnythingGoes.

29 responses

  1. OK now I need to read this book.

  2. Hi Ted, I thought Chaise Lounge was spelled like this, Did you spell it wrong there?

  3. It is in the US… that is the original spelling, and how it was used in England in 1953 when the book was written.

    1. Ok Ted, thanks for clarifying that, it sure is spelled weird, Take care my dear

      1. It comes from the French, and literally means “long chair” – we’ve changed it so it means lounging chair, which is generally what you do on one. 🙂

  4. Another good one Ted! I am really enjoying you blogs. Sounds like a good book, you will have to let me know when you finish it!!

  5. Yes, the book sounds wonderful! Yet another one I’ll have to read.

    Some people think dreams take them to a funny place. Perhaps, although it often seems to me that the dreams are a response to something going on in my life, something I wasn’t aware that I observed, something I’ve been unconsciously avoiding that needs a response.

    And then there are the *really* weird ones that I swear came out of the ether.

    I’m sorry to hear about the loss of Valerie. Maybe she just needed to be remembered.

  6. I like the addition of the pictures. A nice touch, and a well written story…

    1. Thank you for your help.

  7. Stephen Place | Reply

    Hi Ted. Great picture and tribute.

  8. Ted, W A Y P O A R

  9. It sounds like a great book!
    Dreams are so random. Lately I have been having some doozies! I am sorry to hear about the death of your daughter’s husband’s sister. I can imagine that would bring on some nightmares…

  10. sounds like a cool book. It’s been a long time since i’ve actually read a book. I need to really get into it to have it keep my attention. I read the life of Van Gogh and then i was so into it i dreamt about him. (ok, so i’ve been told you don’t like him so i’m virtually holding your lips together lol) hugs

  11. Well done Ted! Your writing style brings many facets of your topic together so naturally. I really enjoy that. Your tribute to Valerie reminds us to appreciate and honor all who take the risks, and the consequences, to bring aid and comfort to people in war torn areas.

    Please put my name in line to read ‘The Victorian Chaise-Longue’.

  12. Hi Ted, thanks so much for that – its really lovely to read, even though it has reduced me to tears at 9 am on a Saturday morning!! Makes me very proud of her, I think you two would have got on so well. Will share it with Paddy & Peggy when I see them tonight. I hope you have finished that book by now! Dx

    1. Note: Denise is Valerie’s sister in Dublin, Ireland.

  13. Ted, it’s great to see you on the Moonshine Grid! I enjoyed reading this bit of *real Ted*, as I have only read your fiction prior to this. I am excited and intrigued to learn about Persephone books.

    The loss of Valerie is a tragedy. It sounds like she was a kind-hearted person who was doing important work. The world definitely needs more Valeries.

    P.S. I am very familiar with the waiter/waitress dreams – brutal!

    1. There’s a first time for everything… I like the open ended nature of the Moonshine. Thanks for the welcome, Karen. I actually loved waiting tables (usually), just not in my dreams… the real life nightmare ones were enough.

  14. Thanks so much for letting us know about Persephone Books – even if it does likely mean I’ll be broke for the foreseeable future!

    This is a great post because not only does it talk about books and nightmares, but you’ve paid lovely homage to a woman who sounds truly amazing.

    1. You can go broke very quickly there, but what an amazing resource of wonderful books you never heard of… and writers. It is fun to learn the stories of the authors… the woman who wrote Miss Pettigrew, Winifred Watson is a good one.

  15. I’m very glad you decided to re-post this. Thank you for sharing it!

    1. You are welcome… it is nice to find a place to show off some of those posts I am proud of, from the early days when no one read my blog. Thanks.

  16. Similar taste in books, you and I. And I love the way you’ve woven in dreams with the story of this remarkable woman…

    1. Have your read ‘Shadow of the Wind’? My fave. Thanks, Natalie.

      1. Ooo, yes, and loved it!

  17. The books look and sound beautiful, and I am glad you are still sharing the story of your relative’s life. I tend to still have dreams about getting lost in college buildings whenever I am stressed, many, many years after ever getting lost in a college building. (By the way, the Persephone link you posted wasn’t working for me.)

    1. Thank you, Marcy. Oh God, I have had that dream too… although not much. I have corrected the link, thanks.

  18. Sorry about Valerie. Reminds me of another person with good intentions who died in the hands of the people he was trying to help. The Chaise-Lounge sounds like an intriguing story. Made me curious what happened in the end.

    1. Thank you for your nice comments, Karina. How did you ever come across this post? I don’t remember how it ended, but not well for the lady in question. In the past, she was part of another family and could not get anyone to listen to her. It was a disturbing book to read, but so good.

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