Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Book Review: Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday
By Graham Swift
Published by Scribner
Available in hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

Graham Swift's latest novel, Mothering Sunday may be short but it definitely packs a punch.

Mothering Sunday, 1924, and Jane Fairchild, housemaid and orphan has no place to go on her day off. With no family to visit, and her employer out for the day, she is at a loose end... until her lover gets in touch, asking for a secret liaison. Her lover is her employer's neighbour's son, the heir to an estate (after his brothers died in WWI), and is soon to be married to another woman. Life is about to change for Jane - not the affair but the generous employer who lets her borrow books from his private library.

1924 is still an uncertain time - people are still recovering from WWI. Society has shifted and people are still not sure of the future with assumptions of people's lives and the roles they will play for the rest of their lives has gone out of the window. Social mobility is possible if you're determined to take the challenge. Jane is certainly ready to make the leap - she doesn't want to be a mistress or a housemaid.

This is a novel about finding a voice in society, gaining independence, and leading a successful life outside of society's expectations. The way 'class' dominates life is explored in Mothering Sunday with the way it controls nearly all of the characters decisions with the friction and struggles but also the motivation it gives Jane to claw out of a bad situation. She has no background or family yet she doesn't let this stop her from finding a position in society.

Swift explores the importance of stories, and the way they shape our lives, and they way we look back at our lives, reshaping memories into neat stories, and create ourselves a parallel world. Jane sets out to discover who she is and who she will become. The stories she tells of her past, and of Mothering Sunday in 1924 help give her a place in society, helping her to escape the unknown.

"All the scenes. All the scenes that never occur, but wait in the wings of possibility."

Mothering Sunday is a thoughtful, emotive and subtle novel. You can buy Mothering Sunday from your favourite bookshop.

The publisher kindly sent me a copy.

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