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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting take on World War II
At first I thought that Playfair's novel was going to be quite light and romantic, but there is an elegaic, thoughtful tone to the writing that lifts it out of the ordinary and which I loved. It is set towards the end of WWII in a beautiful old manor house in the English countryside. Cressida and her young son live here, as she lets out the rooms of the house to a...
Published on 17 July 2010 by Mrs. K. A. Wheatley

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wartime preachiness
Not one of my favourite Persephones, but interesting because it is a book about WW2 that was published in 1944 ... and presumably spoke more to readers who were still going through it, than it does to me today. I'm afraid I got rather bogged down - and bored - by long uplifting monologues about the nature of war and why we were fighting and the moral values that would...
Published on 4 Oct 2009 by booksetc


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting take on World War II, 17 July 2010
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Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A House in the Country (Paperback)
At first I thought that Playfair's novel was going to be quite light and romantic, but there is an elegaic, thoughtful tone to the writing that lifts it out of the ordinary and which I loved. It is set towards the end of WWII in a beautiful old manor house in the English countryside. Cressida and her young son live here, as she lets out the rooms of the house to a variety of disparate characters all brought together by the vagaries of war. Cressida, a young widow, waits for news of the man she loves and spends her time thinking about the changes the war has brought to her life and the England she knows and has grown up in.

Playfair writes of the fundamental changes that the war has brought to the country and philosophises about how it will change the future, despite the fact that England has not been invaded physically. She talks about changes to the social and class structure, the liberation and independence of women and the changing relationships between men and women. Cressida is a surprisingly modern woman, thinking of physical love and relationships as well as marriage and spiritual love and not being afraid to voice her opinions.

I loved this book. It was unusual, and clever and prescient, and I would be really interested to read more of Playfair's work.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wartime preachiness, 4 Oct 2009
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This review is from: A House in the Country (Paperback)
Not one of my favourite Persephones, but interesting because it is a book about WW2 that was published in 1944 ... and presumably spoke more to readers who were still going through it, than it does to me today. I'm afraid I got rather bogged down - and bored - by long uplifting monologues about the nature of war and why we were fighting and the moral values that would forge the future. Probably because we have all relapsed back into cynicism ... one hopes that reading this in 1944, I might have felt bucked-up by it rather than bored.
Leaving the moralising aside, there's a mildly engaging underlying story about Cressida, the most unselfish woman in the world, who has filled a beautiful English country house with some (not very amusing) wartime misfits. Cue for some typical Persephone passages about cabbages and Agas and middleclass women getting to grips with housework for the first time in their lives. The house belongs to the man who is the love of Cressida's life, but who has accidentally killed her unpleasant husband. As no nice woman in domestic literature must profit from the death of a husband, this love of course remains unconsummated to the end. While Cressida riddles the Aga, her chap (a Grand National-winning jockey, with a gammy leg) is bobbing about for an appalling two weeks in a liferaft having been torpedoed in the Atlantic.
There is, admittedly a lovely elegiac quality to some of the writing. I rather thought it might have made a better stiff-upper-lip old black and white film than it does a novel. Celia Johnson as Cressida.
It's a thoughtful, well-meaning book. But too worthy to be really enjoyable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An end to war -- unfortunately never, 16 Sep 2013
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Ginny (Martha's Vineyard) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A House in the Country (Paperback)
I have an old copy and the printing is small for my aging eyes, otherwise this would have a 4 - 5 star review. Yes, there is a lot of moralizing in this book but I thought that this added to rather than detracted from the story. Or it would have if all the moralizing came from characters who were otherwise rather busy and perhaps not thinking out fully formed opinions with the clarity and detail here. If you are in a lifeboat and in desperate straits (and badly burned) I'm not sure that I would be philosophizing so deeply. Otherwise it is an engaging story and Cressida offers up wonderful meals (but who is keeping the house clean and polished if no help?) and wonderful advice.

With the drumbeats of war constantly in our ears from the middle east, and the current crisis of nerve gas and chemical warfare in Syria, this book is prescient.

Would that we could achieve an end to war, but probably not in my lifetime, or my kids' or even my grandsons. It is about them that I worry...I don't want my lively, lovely grandsons to be cannon fodder!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh To Be in England!, 29 Mar 2012
This review is from: A House in the Country (Paperback)
Like the best British fiction, A House in the Country is a novel of place. (Think of Mansfield Park, Howard's End, The Last September and Rebecca.) Jocelyn Playfair paints a fine portrait of wartime England while seldom moving the action far from Brede Manor, the big house at the heart of the narrative. She brings the characters of the house - servicemen, singers, sponging aunts - vividly to life and interweaves theirs stories with great artistry. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars '...for themselves, personally, the war seems to mean practically nothing', 13 Jun 2014
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sally tarbox (aylesbury bucks uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A House in the Country (Paperback)
Written in the middle of the Second World War, this is the story of Cressida Chance; living in beautiful Brede Manor, she takes in 'paying guests' - a charitable act rather than a money-spinner when housing was in short supply. Cressida has no time for her neighbours who continue their selfish pre-war lives, arguing with one about paying guests:

"I said did she suppose these nice, shy young men liked walking up to private houses and asking for rooms, and being made to feel like commercial travellers or even confidence men, and did she realise that it might be the only chance some wretched couple might have of living together. I'm afraid I even said it might be the last few weeks of any of their lives."

The most outstanding of the guests is Tori, a central European refugee who has undergone horrors abroad, and who engages Cressida in some noble and idealistic conversations on war and Christianity. In complete contrast is Cressida's utterly self-centred elderly Aunt Jessica, who comes to stay.
Interspersed with their lives, we follow Cressida's long-absent lover, Charles, as he is lost at sea after his ship is torpedoed...

Ms Playfair writes quite beautifully:
'Yes, there are the cabbages, she thought, in neat rows, and a pie in the oven, and a thousand bombers going out in a night; five or six thousand highly trained young men with nervous, useful fingers, good at mending wireless sets, playing the piano, tinkering with cars and leaking roofs, doing endless, fiddling invaluable jobs...'

'Life goes on and on. The cabbages stand in rows and somewhere men are clutching at wreckage in wild seas with oil burning on the water. the trains are full of men reading their newspapers, and somewhere old men and women are being driven in herds away from their homes, sleeping in the cold under trees, hiding in cellars and jungles.'

But I found Cressida - that calm, beautiful, wise 37 year old, beloved by all - somewhat hard to warm to. And the last couple of chapters which contain more splendidly noble sentiment than the rest of the book put together, were just too much and spoilt what had been a fairly good novel.
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A House in the Country
A House in the Country by Jocelyn Playfair (Paperback - 22 Mar 2002)
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