Mothering Sunday, by Graham Swift, is a mesmerizing slim novel that will catch the reader by surprise. After all, the story happens in just one day, and the narrator is 90 years old.
Jane Fairchild is a 22-year-old maid for a wealthy family in the English countryside. She has been having secrets trysts with Paul Sheringham, a wealthy, nearby neighbor. Paul’s brothers died in the war, and he is the remaining heir to his family’s fortune. Of course, with wealth comes rules and Paul is soon to marry a wealthy girl from the upper crust circle of family friends. On a holiday called Mothering Sunday, Paul boldly calls Jane and asks her to visit him in his home. His family is away for the day and the maids are all off for the holiday. Jane rides her bike over and enters through the front door, an absolute affront to the customary upper crust rules of the day. Paul and Jane spend the morning entwined in bed, but the time arrives when Paul must leave to have lunch with his fiancé.
He was twenty-three and she was twenty-two. And he was even what you might call a thoroughbred, though she did not have that word then, any more than she had the word ‘stallion’. She did not have a million words.
Graham Swift is cunning in his release of the story’s details. Jane moves from innocence to self-awareness in a mere 176 pages. Swift skillfully sets each scene, which allows the reader to discover the morals of the day and the angst of the characters. Ultimately, the reader learns about the beauty and pain of one’s memories.
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