Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
The Last Word Review
Tantalizing and sensual, Graham Swift’s novella is a moving account of life, love and death. Deeply engrossing
The beauty of Graham Swift’s new novel Mothering Sunday is that it is set on a single day set in a small village outside of London in 1924. A country still coming to terms with the brutality of the First World War.
Jane Fairchild is in domestic service as a housemaid, already with her own family but has embarked on an illicit affair with Paul Sheringham, Jane is in love with Paul. It is Mothering Sunday and housemaids are given the day off. As she is an Orphan and with no Mother to visit she goes to visit Paul. What Jane already knows is that Paul being a wealthy landowner is already engaged to a wealthy lady of similar standing. So this could well be the last time they share a bed together before Paul is married. Does this deter Jane, not in the slightest. After they have finished making love Paul dresses as he has to meet his future wife at a restaurant. It is while Paul is heading off Jane wanders around the big house naked, completely un-noticed, but what if she is noticed what would follow. Remember this is 1929. You have the feeling during this part of the story that the air is crackling with sexual tension, they have both been secret lovers for years. But Jane knows that because of her social standing they can never be together forever.
Unknown to Jane a tragic accident has occurred involving Paul on route to Henley and from this moment the story takes on a new meaning.
With Jane now alone she spends a lot of her time thinking. As the story flits back and forth we obtain an understanding of times long past. This is a story of sexual attraction knowing that there will be an end to the affair there has to be as Jane is just a housemaid.
What does become of plain Jane, later in life she becomes a successful author a writer of a number of novels.
Mothering Sunday is a short story of 139 pages in length but it is a stylish and wonderfully crafted novel that at times will make your reading glasses mist up. A book that you can read in its entirety in an afternoon and then re-read to absorb the evocative story line.
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift is published by Scribner and available through all good bookshops.