A luminous, intensely moving tale that begins with a secret lovers' assignation in the spring of 1924, then unfolds to reveal the whole of a remarkable life.
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 dayMothering Sundaya 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 Janeabout the way she loves, thinks, feels, sees, remembersexpands with every vividly captured moment. Her story is one of profound self-discovery, and through her, Graham Swift has created an emotionally soaring, deeply affecting work of fiction.
You shall go to the ball!
Once upon a time, before the boys were killed and when there were more horses than cars, before the male servants disappeared and they made do, at Upleigh and at Beech wood, with just a cook and a maid, the Sheringhams had owned not just four horses in their own stable, but what might be called a "real horse," a racehorse, a thoroughbred. Its name was Fandango. It was stabled near Newbury. It had never won a damn thing. But it was the family's indulgence, their hope for fame and glory on the racecourses of southern England. The deal was that Ma and Pa otherwise known in his strange language as "the shower"owned the head and body and he and Dick and Freddy had a leg each.
"What about the fourth leg?"
"Oh the fourth leg. That was always the question."
For most of the time it was just a name, never seen, though an expensively quartered and trained name. It had been sold in 1915when he'd been fifteen too. "Before you ...
Tucked within the 175 pages of this story are enough ideas hinted at for several seasons of episodic television, perhaps even a century-spanning epic, rooted in the realm of Upstairs-Downstairs-style domestic intrigue. Swift effectively immerses the reader in the life of a relatively powerless chambermaid in the early going, but the rapid unfolding of events in the latter half prevents the arc of Jane's life from being genuinely affecting.
(Reviewed by James Broderick).
Full Review (1032 words).
In the UK, "Mothering Sunday" – the central event in Graham Swift's novel of the same name – dates back to at least the 16th century when Christians would go "a mothering" to visit their "mother church" once a year, where they had been baptized. For some, this would also be the day of the year when mothers were united with their children — not just adult offspring but even those as young as ten who might be apprenticed or in service.
Held on the fourth Sunday of Lent, Mothering Sunday was also known as Refreshment Sunday as the dietary restrictions of Lent were somewhat relaxed on that day (some say in honor of the Feeding of the Five Thousand). Traditionally, a Simnel cake was baked — a fruit cake with a ...
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