Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

Mothering Sunday is the third Sunday before Easter.  It was originally a day on which individuals visited their original or 'mother' church.  Over the years, it became a day on which domestic servants were freed from service to go visit their families or do whatever pleased them.

The year is 1924 and we follow the day of Jane Fairchild on Mothering Day.  She is twenty-two and a maid in the home of the Nivens.  They are kind to her, even encouraging her desire to read and educate herself.  On this Mothering Day, the Nivens are off to lunch with their friends whose son and daughter are to be married in two weeks.

But Jane has other plans.  She has been involved in an affair with the son who is about to be married and whose house is next to that of the Nivens for seven years.  Today all the families involved are off at lunch and the two have his house to themselves.  The novel opens in the moments when they are through with sex and lying naked in his bed.  But he has other plans; he must meet his fiance for their own lunch.  Will this be his last time with Jane?  They have taught each other everything about sex over the years.  Is that all to come to an end?

The novel is told from the viewpoint of Jane decades later when she is an established and celebrated author.  She looks back at her first lover and at her life in those days and sees how far she has come in life since then.  Graham Swift has written nine novels and has been a successful author, winning both the Guardian Fiction Prize and the Booker.  This novel is intricate and delves into the lifestyle common in England in the days surrounding World War I where great families have large homes and there is an entire class of people 'in service' to them.  Is Jane being exploited or is she taking charge of her own life?  The reader must determine this and other questions about Jane as her life is slowly unfolded for examination.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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