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“And was she even a maid? And was he even a master? It was the magic, the perfect politics of nakedness.”

Mothering Sunday ~ Graham Swift

Despite the cover, somehow what I was expecting least from this book was sex. Well, no that is incorrect, I wasn’t expecting the story to begin with sex; the first half of this slight read to contain intimate moments in such great detail. Perhaps I was distracted by the title.

‘Mothering Sunday’ is a romance in some ways, a slice of a larger, more complicated life in others. A seven-year secret love affair has been in the works between Jane Fairchild (a maid) and a wealthy English country gentleman (Paul Sheringham). Paul is soon to be married to a woman of his family’s choosing and this secret love affair is going to end, this very afternoon. The afternoon of Mothering Sunday (Mother’s Day) when all the servants were given the day off to visit their own mothers.

The writing is sublime, moving and had me very close to tears; with this (to borrow from Julian Barnes’ title) sense of an ending. There is a feeling of foreboding from the very beginning, and the novella takes turns that are unexpected. The beauty of this book is that it isn’t only about this one afternoon, but it is written with a structure that narrates Jane Fairchild’s whole life, without complicating it for the reader.

Why you should read it:

  • Quick, yet lazy read. More like a short story rather than a novella
  • Delicate, elevated prose

Why you shouldn’t read it:

  • Most of the story carries on languidly, and to some this might be boring
  • A lot of the writing is more meditation and less story