I’ve read several books by Graham Swift and enjoyed them all, Waterlands most but the others as well, Last Orders; Wish You Were Here; The Light of Day. I know what to expect of Swift and he’s not disappointed me yet, but nothing I’ve read, including MOthering Sunday, has lived up to Waterlands, either.
Mothering Sunday: A Romance
by Graham Swift
2016/194 pages (Kindle)
rating 9 / literary historical fiction
Jane Fairchild and Paul Sheringham are young lovers (without love apparently – bed-buddies might be better term), but it’s an impossible match because society in 1924 was not usually tolerant of gentlemen and maids getting together. He’s using her in his own way but she seems not to object, not for the most part, anyway.
The trouble is he’s getting married to Emma Hobday, a suitable young woman from a family with money. Too bad, as that likely will be the end for Jane and Paul who have been getting together between the sheets for about seven years. Jane will continue to work for the Niven family which lives just down the road from Paul and Paul will move somewhere with Emma.
On their last day together Paul meets Jane at the front door of his home and the morning is spent in his bed with all the other family members waiting for him at a restaurant for a dinner party. After he leaves her Jane wanders the house naked for awhile, but finally, after the telephone stops ringing, she too leaves. This has been, as the epigraph suggests, her Cinderella ball.
Swift has crafted a truly beautiful tale (the term is used deliberately) of romance, but it’s way more than that – it’s also about writing and books and truth and social class and love and women and mothers and men and loss and grief and so many things all packed into a lovely slender volume. I think I might be reading it again.