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Book Review: "Mothering Sunday" by Graham Swift

5/5 - a construction of womanhood through possibility and intelligence...

By Annie KapurPublished about a month ago 3 min read
3
From: Amazon

“Words were like an invisible skin, enwrapping the world and giving it reality. Yet you could not say the world would not be there, would not be real if you took away the words. At best it seemed that things might bless the words that distinguished them, and that words might bless everything.”

- Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift.

The reason I read this book was honestly because it was a two-for-one deal where I also purchased Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (there's a review for it somewhere around my profile if you'd like). I was not really planning on getting another book but in order to get the deal, I had to. So, you can imagine the weirdness I found myself in when I bought a book I had never heard of by an author I had heard of, but never read. About one 'Mothering Sunday' on the 30th March, 1924 - Jane Fairchild is a literary and intelligent woman navigating how romance does not have to be the centre of her life.

Jane has no family to see on Mothering Sunday and so, she spends the day doing other things and wanting to do a lot more. Being given the day off to visit their mothers, the servants (including Jane) have a relaxive day - but Jane has nowhere to go. She wants to spend the day cycling, reading and doing other things but something gets in the way. She gets a call from a supposed secret lover who wishes for her to come and visit him for what is suspected to be their last night together. In an Age of Innocence style, he is due to make a marriage of convenience and so, can no longer have the house to himself. She, not really too distraught - has no intention of making it the centre of her life.

From: RTE

The theme of loss is huge, but the theme of meaning is bigger. Graham Swift goes into some detail about how this woman's life means more than simply her romances. Jane does not present herself as someone to be pitied, she is not depressed or morose, she is not miserable and doesn't present herself as a victim in any way. Instead, she focuses on more intelligent prospects like reading and writing, finding meaning in books and of course, her 'eagerness for life'.

Jane's later life as a writer tends to make sense in this respect as Graham Swift ebbs in and out of why she became one and whether she will ever disclose the series of events that led her there in full. Her honesty seems to be also shrouded in a pleasant secrecy that we all have in our professional lives - not really scared of simply being judged but also afraid about how the information may give to our reputations. Jane mediates on her life and its possiblities, including what her life would have been like if she never actually entered service in the household she works in.

From: National Post

A journey that takes Jane's soul on an adventure of mental frustration and literary personality, this book gives us something really great to read about one woman's want to build something of herself whilst also captured within a bunch of other things such as: service, love, loss and grief. She doesn't play victim, but at times her tone is littered with a sense of longing and Swift writes poetically a story woven from emotions, passions and thoughts. A narrative where things don't simply happen, they combust and combine to create more possibilities.

All in all, I think Graham Swift has created something short but beautiful as he investigates this woman's journey from probability to possibility. He explores the theme of grief in tons of different ways, including Jane's coping mechanism of distracting herself from the fact that she is not going away from Mothering Sunday even though all of the other servants are. We can say that she is strong in the fact she wants to do other things, but we cannot deny that there is a tiny faction of grief knocked into the narrative too. Sometimes, the tone can drift off. The description allows us room to deconstruct the atmosphere.

literature
3

About the Creator

Annie Kapur

200K+ Reads on Vocal.

English Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

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Comments (1)

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  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    IDK it sounds like I would shut the book after maybe 2 chapters?

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