Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons Virago HK$114 Stella Gibbons has always been a writer with surprises lurking in the woodshed. But little in this welcome reissue of 1938's Nightingale Wood is more surprising than Sophie Dahl's name on the cover as the person providing the introduction. The merits of her own works aside, Dahl's taste is impeccable. 'But with the shadows we have light, and ... it is testament to the wily talent of Gibbons to dance between the two with her light touch,' she writes. Well put. Gibbon's dark lightness is in evidence from the outset. Could there be a more English opening than: 'It is difficult to make a dull garden, but old Mr Wither had succeeded.' Wither by name, withering by nature, Wither lives according to strict rules, most of which involve time. As Gibbons tells us, tartly, it is in this 'bleak household, in which clocks are constantly checked to see whether the day is ending, that poor Viola is deposited'. Viola, the heroine, is a latter-day Cinderella, berated by Wither for being poor and by his two daughters for being gauche. Enter Prince Charming, or at least a dastardly version called Victor Spring, to set the pumpkins shaking. Nightingale Wood is simply glorious.