Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"From the Booker Award winner: a luminous, profoundly moving work of fiction that begins with an afternoon tryst in 1924 between a servant girl and the young man of the neighboring house, but then opens to reveal the whole life of a remarkable woman. Twenty-two-year-old Jane Fairchild, orphaned at birth, has worked as a maid at one English country estate since she was sixteen. And for almost all of those years she has been the secret lover to Paul Sheringham, the scion of the estate next door. On an unseasonably warm March afternoon, Jane and Paul will make love for the last time--though not, as Jane believes, because Paul is about to be married--and the events of the day will alter Jane's life forever. As the narrative moves back and forth from 1924 to the end of the century, what we know and understand about Jane--about the way she loves, thinks, feels, sees, remembers--deepens with every beautifully wrought moment. Her story is one of profound self-discovery and through her, Graham Swift has created an emotionally soaring and deeply affecting work of fiction"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2016
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781101947524
Branch Call Number: Fiction Swift
Characteristics: 177 pages ; 20 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Nov 01, 2018

I read this a second time to pick up on the subtle ways the author hints at the future events. I was intrigued by how small words dropped in just the right places set the tone for this book. Incredibly well-crafted - read once for the story line and the second time to stop and notice the writing itself and how it pulls the reader in while it slowly reveals the story bit by bit.

Sep 12, 2018

This is our October 18 Book Club selection. It is a billed as a romance but from my perspective describes an ongoing sexual/physical relationship between a a lower class house maid and an aristocrat. It illuminates the relationship between classes as it was in 1924 . I did enjoy the description of Jane becoming a writer and her perspective on writing and the writing life from the age of 90.

Sep 06, 2018

This novella takes place in the course of a single pivotal day of lush loving as well as heartbreak, with backward looking exposition and omniscient narration projected into the future. To me, it feels like a short story Swift has padded with much repetition and halting, phrase-strewn sentence structure. (In my head I hear the narrator’s voice as actor Bill Nighy.) However, this repetition is similar to what certain memories do – they play over and over in the mind like a mesmerizing dream. Like a poet playing with words …which is what Jane does so successfully, breaking out of the class she was born into to become a well known writer.

Dec 30, 2017

This is a quick read and a delightful book. It is a thoughtful accompaniment to the Pat Barker trilogy on World War I, revealing some of the aftereffects of that war on English culture.

Apr 01, 2017

Slow to get started, but took on a lovely hue as the character developed depth and nuance.

Dec 13, 2016

The story is written at the pace of a slow embrace. A close and silent, soul embracing relationship is the profound experience from which the writer bases the narrative. The main character, Jane Fairchild, tells her story from various points of age reminding us of the interpretations and questions from which we base our own truth. The end leaves the reader with a satisfactory sigh.

Oct 12, 2016

A novella about a woman whose life spanned the twentieth century. She recalls a day in 1924 and its impact on the rest of her life, from maid to writer. It is interesting that she is reading Conrad on this momentous day and that the novella itself could be described as Conradian.

Sep 22, 2016

This small novella by Graham Swift is an exemplar of the genre, written by a master. Swift takes a small image and spins it into something tight and intricate, but with threads that could lead into something larger. In this case, the image is a woman lying naked among the tangled sheets in a sun-filled room in an empty house.

Her lover Paul has just stood up from the bed, and he looks back at her as he dresses. It is 1924, Mothering Sunday. In the drab and aching days after WWI, Paul is the only remaining son of the Sheringham family, with his two older brothers killed in the war. Jane is an orphan, a housemaid in a neighbouring house. Their relationship is an illicit secret, impossible to bring into the open.

For those few gentry families still clinging to a vanishing world of big houses and servants, Mothering Sunday is always an inconvenience. Their hired help are given the whole day off to visit their own mothers, leaving their employers to make their own arrangements. But, as an orphan, Jane has no mother to visit and so she has the whole day to herself- or so she thought. Paul has other ideas.

This book is only 132 pages in length, and it is just right. The language is explicit and fruity, but the narrative voice wistful and melancholy. Swift foreshadows the ending right from the start, and the tension in moving towards that ending is so painful that I wouldn’t have wanted it to go for another page longer. It was so beautifully written, however, than I wouldn’t wish for a single page less, either.

Sep 18, 2016

Hmmm, this book is like the first three chapters of an early 19th century novel. Not too much action, but lots of thoughts about it. Light, easy to read, not too many calories, lemon meringue made with Sweet & Lo.

Aug 25, 2016

One Sunday.
One tryst.
One tragedy.
One aged writer's flashback.
One odd, quintessential British romance.
Not sure I've read anything quite like this.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at PCPL

To Top