So I'm nearly a week behind with Classics Spin #17, but better late than never. My spin pick was One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes, a slim novella of a mere 184 pages. One would think it would be easy enough to finish this book in time --I was so confident that I could zoom through this book in a day that I literally left it to the last minute. Of course, I was wrong.
It's a short book, but not one that I would recommend rushing. As the title suggests, it's a single day in the life of Laura Marshall, who lives in Wealding, a fictional English village in Sussex. It's shortly after the end of the war, and her husband Stephen commutes by train to his job in the city; daughter Victoria, about 9 or 10, is off to school and then visiting a friend afterward for tea.
Laura goes about her early summer day, filled with the normal tasks of cleaning, cooking, shopping and errands. The family live in a big house that once had several servants, but now must make do with a part-time daily charwoman and elderly gardener. Her tasks that day include asking a local youth to help out with the gardening maintenance, and putting an advertisement in the local paper for a cook.
The reader really gets a feeling of what life was like in the aftermath of the war. The book was published in 1947 and it's very obvious that WWII is still very fresh, with rationing, queueing, and German POWs still working on local farms. Laura picks a basket of gooseberries for her husband's work assistant who lives in London; there are mentions of the sudden availability of oranges, and daughter Victoria longs to live on a farm where milk and cream are there for the taking.
How hot it was! The midday heat was rising to a head, like milk to the boil, singing in a clotted hum of bees, of crickets among the sorrel and daisies, of gnats dancing above the cresses tugged all one way by the trickle of water running under the hedge. An old woman came out with a pail, hobbling across the lane to the tap dripping among the moss. She had lived to see men flying overhead like birds; to stand among the hollyhocks watching bombs spluttering across the stars to kill a family forty miles away; to turn a switch and hear the great voice from Westminster correcting her kitchen clock.
I loved this book and it was the perfect read for a beautiful spring day. I read a good chunk of it on Saturday afternoon sitting outside in the Japanese garden in Kaiserslautern. I didn't take any photos this time but here's one of my favorites from last year.
Mollie Panter-Downes worked for years as a correspondent for the New Yorker magazine and as a short story writer; sadly, she really didn't write many novels. However, I've read and enjoyed both of her short story collections published by Persephone, and I also own London War Notes, a collection of her wartime columns which was thankfully republished (also by Persephone) because the previous edition from the 1970s was terribly expensive. It's on my TBR Pile Challenge list so I'm hoping to get to it before the end of the summer.