Wednesday, September 21, 2016

MOTHERING SUNDAY BY GRAHAM SWIFT - BOOK REVIEW

Hello everyone!

I am here today with another book review, Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift. Thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book for participating in a book club discussion. A review was not requested, however I am providing one as a complimentary copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher. All opinions are my own.


Well, this was nothing, if not a charming little book.

I found this story to be a little peculiar, not in the plot line itself, but in the way it was written. On it's bare bones, this is a love story. Set in the mid 1920s, Jane Fairchild, a maid for a couple in England, and Paul Sheringham, a prestigious neighbour, have been secret lovers for over 6 years. While neither was married or in a relationship at the time, their meetings have been kept a secret because, presumably, of the social standing of Paul specifically. However, as Paul becomes engaged, as Jane assumes, by arrangement, it is clear that they will no longer be able to continue seeing each other.

One Sunday, Mothering Sunday, as it is known, when all the staff and servants of the homes leave their posts to spend time with their families, Jane and Paul meet at Paul's estate for one last time before Paul is to be married in two weeks time. Afterwards, Paul takes his time dressing for lunch with his fiancée and leaves Jane at his home, allowing her to wonder as she pleases.

Most of this book is spent after Paul leaves; there's a good chunk of Jane, just wandering the house, naked and alone, eating meat pie, reading books, etc. However, it never felt tedious or dragging, because of the writing.

Seeing as how this is such a short book, not even 200 pages, the writing itself has to carry most of the story, each word needs to portray the message accurately. Despite the fact that this is such a simple storyline, two lovers seeing each other for the last time, the writing draws you in. It had a very enchanting feeling, just very relaxed but still well-worded.

When Jane arrives home, it is clear that something is wrong. I won't say what happens, although the synopsis is pretty clear.

The story also jumped from present day 1924 to in the 1980s where we see Jane has made a career for herself as a writer; penning 19 novels, been married and widowed, and lived a fruitful life. These future tidbits were woven into the story in new paragraphs as well as being dropped in as future events like "however, she would never see him again." While I felt these were integrated well into the story and didn't cause a disruption of the flow, I found that they weren't really necessary. I liked the story just the same without wondering (and finding out) what happened to Jane when she was 80.

The writing and storyline was vaguely reminiscent of The Importance of Being Earnest, not necessarily in terms of subject matter and plot, but with the whimsical writing style and the way in which you don't necessarily know who is narrating, or what is going on on a deeper level, but you still keep reading because you are enraptured by the writing itself. The story itself is straight-forward, but the writing is more intricate, more complex. At the same time, it wasn't hard to follow, rather I found myself relaxed, and almost soothed by the storyline.

One review said that this book is perfect for a lazy afternoon read, and I completely agree! Its such a quick read with lyrical writing, and short enough that you won't put it down because you are 'just about' done.

I think this book also deals with some issues that are still prevalent today, that people reading this book now can relate to, woman, social standing and the intricacies of casually intimate relationships. In terms of speculating what happened to Paul, well some could say it was an accident, but others, the romantics and realists alike, they could say that he knew those roads like the back of his hand, and just couldn't bear to be without Jane. What started as, realistically, a prostitution agreement, developed into something more, I think, for both of them. While I tend to favour the pessimistic side of things, I do think that Paul just couldn't bear to be with Emma over Jane, but knew that that would never be possible. At the same time, this book also touches on woman as authors, and even the views that something as mundane as a young woman reading a "boys adventure" story was radical. Jane speaks to these concerns in her passages as an adult and a writer later on in life.

Overall, this was an enchanting, easy read that, while appears to be a basic story, has more nuances and elements than meets the eye.