A severed family - the unseen cost of war,
This review is from: One Fine Day (Paperback)
Here it is - a darn good read that is accomplished in so many ways! This late 1940s novel uses the themes and devices of high modernism (it builds on the work of Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf), yet is so highly accessible. It explores tangled emotions, yet it doesn't slide into gloom, pessimism and depression.
As in Mrs Dalloway , we follow several people through the course of a single day. The setting is a village in the home counties, not a city, and the focus is a woman in her late 30s recently reunited with her husband at war's end. The family was fractured by his war service. How is this couple to rebuild their marriage after a long break? Who are they now? They are not strangers, although their love seems a thing of the past. How do they approach it? What is especially sad is how much he has missed of their daughter's life: she was a toddler when he left, but now she is a 10 year old with a personality he doesn't know.
This is a careful, measured account of how forced separation can affect a happy family emotionally. It is not bleak, but it confronts very real problems. The story also flits across the thoughts of villagers as they ponder how the pre-war pattern of life has not been restored - instead small yet significant social changes have occurred.
If this is a superb work thematically, in literary terms it is technically accomplished as well. Mollie Panter-Downes almost effortless integrates stream-of-consciousness into his narrative. And her descriptions of nature in the gardens and fields of this 1940s village have a lyricism that is a delight to read.
This novel begs to be read against - and contrasted with - Elizabeth Taylor's A Wreath Of Roses. It is a must for those who enjoy Elizabeth Bowen, Rosamond Lehmann and Elizabeth Taylor!