Truly, there were probably a dozen things about Graham Swift’s Mothering Sunday that could have annoyed me –
- the cloying “Once upon a time…” opening
- the Cinderella riff
- the subtitle, ‘A Romance’, for it’s seemingly a story about a maid being taken advantage of…(or is it?)
- the lengthy descriptions of stains on sheets
- the improbability of a maid walking around a stately home, naked, and laying books across her bare breasts
- the 400-page-price-tag on what is actually a novella*
But all is forgiven Mr Swift because, when you revealed your twist – a small but perfect tragedy – I gasped.
I loved Upleigh, Beechworth, the Sheringhams and the Nivens. I loved the fuss over being without the ‘help’ for a day. I loved the glimpses of sadness – all those boys that never came back from War, forever stuck in silver frames and mothers’ memories. I loved the fanciful notion that one day can shape the rest of your life. I loved the gentle words (and wasn’t the least bit offended by the occasional ‘cock’ thrown in to jar me out of my reverie). I loved Jane’s testing of words – jamboree, mugging – if there’s a romance in this book, it’s Jane’s with words. I loved its Englishness. I loved the clever title – Jane the orphan, who is ultimately her own maker, her life a ‘blank sheet’.
“…many things in life — oh so many more than we think — can never be explained at all.”
Jane eats a lunch of veal and ham pie, and beer “…tasting like brown autumn leaves…”. A perfect description. I imagine Jane ate a braised pie, much like this one by Lavender & Lovage.
*not an issue for me as I borrowed this book from the library but I know some readers are peevish.