Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift is a good example of a book I needed to be in the right mood for. According to the front cover, A masterpiece said the Guardian. Meh, says I.
This is one of those books that looks at one situation through a microscope, and in slow motion. It’s undoubtedly well written, and unflinching in it’s graphic portrayal of doomed love, and also of the floppy messiness of a post-coital bedroom (apologies if you’re eating, but that’s nothing on the book). It’s set in the 1920s, in a posh house, and the few hours after a maid (Jayne) and a man (Mister Paul), a member of a family close to her employers, have just had their final round of illicit sex, as after seven years of upstairs-downstairs action, he’s about to get married. And I know what you’re wondering, and the answer is a cap. He took her to get the cap fitted, gent that he is.
It’s Sunday, and Mothering Sunday to boot, so the families have all gone off for a picnic, leaving the houses empty and the staff free. To start with Mister Paul does a lot of walking about naked, and once he has gone off to lunch with his intended, Jayne, the maid, then explores the house, also naked. My credulity was stretched here, it’s not even the house she works in, people could come back at any moment, and she even sits to have something to eat. Naked.
If this sounds like your type of book, stop reading, as I’m about to spoil it. As she is walking about the house, the author slips in one of those lines designed to keep us reading, where we are told that while the maid is ruminating on the finality of her lover about to marry, she has no idea he’s already dead. Dun-dun-duuuuuun.
We then cut to a section about her childhood as an orphan, her maid years, her book shop years, her writing years, and none of which I’d have read if I wasn’t waiting to find out how he’d died.
Car crash. The end. Hence the meh.
If I had been in the mood for a painstaking look into the heart of a maid who was about to lose her love, and a man who was about to marry someone he didn’t love, I think I’d have enjoyed it more. But, my attention span is little stunted at the moment, I didn’t particularly like either of the characters, and I think I was also a little disappointed as I love the 1920s, and I didn’t have enough of a fix of the times, with it being more about the people.
I am also not a fan of Mother’s Day, as although it’s better now my daughter is old enough to get me something herself, it truly sucks as a divorced parent of small children. Not only did I have have to get my mother something, I not only had to give my child money to get me something, but then take her to the shops to do it. I found myself minimising frivolous presents by telling my daughter exactly what I wanted, because when you need tights or a new teapot, a bunch of flowers is pointless to the point of annoying.
I have one Kate Atkinson Novel left on my shelf (Life after Life) I’ve been saving for when I really want to get lost in a book, although I’ve read A God in Ruins which I think came after, I don’t care. Kate has never let me down, and I’m sure she won’t now.