Sunday, July 10, 2016
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
Published April 2016 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Source: this one arrived unexpectedly on my doorstep (okay, in my mailbox) from the publisher
Twenty-two-year-old Jane Fairchild has worked as a maid at an English country house since she was sixteen. For almost all of those years she has been the clandestine lover to Paul Sheringham, young heir of a neighboring house. The two now meet on an unseasonably warm March day—Mothering Sunday—a day that will change Jane’s life forever.
As the narrative moves back and forth from 1924 to the end of the century, what we know and understand about Jane—about the way she loves, thinks, feels, sees, remembers—expands with every vividly captured moment.
I hadn't heard of the book when it arrived in my mailbox and I certainly didn't need any more books. But I held onto it simply because it was short, fewer than 200 pages. Yep, that's the only reason. A girl's always gotta have a few quick reads on hand for when she needs a break from longer reads. But that's not really the reason I chose to read it now. The reason I chose to read it now was because JoAnn, of Lakeside Musing, listed it as one of her favorite books so far this year. I'm not sure JoAnn and I have ever disagreed on a book so if she loves it, I'm going to read it.
As ever, JoAnn didn't steer me wrong.
You don't have to read very many pages into Mothering Sunday to know that Graham Swift is British. What is there about British writers that makes their writing so different from all other writers? Certainly some of it is owing to the class structure and the interaction between the upstairs and downstairs in English homes. Mothering Sunday, unfolds slowly, beautifully, and deeply emotionally, highlighting the differences between the lives Jane and Paul have led and the futures they have to look forward to. Swift brushes back and forth in time, touching gently again and again on small details that are incredibly telling. Swift sets his story just after the first World War when families were just recovering from the loss of their sons, when changing times meant the wealthy were finding they could no longer live in the ways they had been for generations, when the working class began to see a way out of servitude. Mothering Sunday is a small window with an wide-ranging, beautiful view.