Skip to main content

Review: A House in the Country, by Jocelyn Playfair


Pages: 261
Original date of publication: 1944
My edition: 2010 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read: I was in the mood for a Persephone
How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, July 2012


A House in the Country is set in the later years of WWII. Cressida Chance is the chatelaine of Brede Manor, a manor house near the village of Brede Somervel. Cressida is a widow and mother, and the house is populated by a host of characters: a freeloading aunt, a European refugee, a young engaged couple who are horribly, horribly wrong for each other. Added on top of that is Cressida’s impossibly good looking brother, an officer in the army who keeps chasing his high-maintenance girlfriend all over the country. The story switches back and forth between the goings-on at the Manor and Charles Valery’s harrowing story.

There’s a great sense of sadness and loss about this novel that the reader feels even before we find out Cressida’s background with Simon and Charles. There’s also a huge sense of uncertainty. The novel was written at a time in the war when nobody knew what was going to happen, and the war literally hits close to home at one point in the book with the air raid on Brede Somervel.

As I’ve said, there’s a feeling of sadness to this book and the characters in many places become philosophical about what’s going on around them. War is a constant in these people’s lives. As you might imagine, Cressida and her fellows are a little bit war-weary—but maybe optimistic? I sometimes got bored in these parts, but I enjoyed watching the contrast between life at the manor and the lifeboat scenes. In all, this is an excellent war-themed book, scary in describing the impact that the war had on everyday English people.

This is Persephone No. 31

Comments

Karen K. said…
I liked this book but it wasn't at all what I expected, much darker. And what kind of name is Cressida Chance? If it was a modern book I'd be hooting with laughter and throw the book aside. Am I being too nitpicky?

It is interesting to read a book written before the war was over, I can't imagine living through it and not knowing whether the Nazis would win. That is a scary thought.
Aarti said…
Oh, the endpapers seem to match perfectly with the story! I think this one sounds really interesting, though a bit of a downer. Understandable, I suppose, given the circumstances around its writing. I wonder how such a hodgepodge group came to be living in a home together?

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is an old dotard, her third locks her up in the house for days and won't let her out; and the last is a fop who a…

Review: This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart

Pages: 254Original date of publication: 1964My edition: 1964 (William Morrow)Why I decided to read: it was 90 degrees outside at the time and I decided it was time to read another book by a favorite authorHow I acquired my copy: from Susanna Kearsley, December 2009Sometimes, whether or not I decide to read a book depends on the weather. Mary Stewart’s books are best read on either very hot or very cold days; and since it was 90 degrees out one weekend a couple of weeks ago, I decided that this one would be perfect. And it was.This Rough Magic takes its title from The Tempest, a play from which this novel takes off. Lucy Waring is a struggling actress who comes to visit her sister on Corfu. One of her neighbors is a renowned actor who’s taken a bit of a sabbatical and his son, a musician with whom Lucy comes to blows at first. This Rough Magic is vintage Mary Stewart, with a murder or two, a mystery, romance, suspense, and lots of magic thrown in. Lucy is your typical Mary Stewart hero…

Review: Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith

Pages: 294
Original date of publication: 1963
My edition: 2010 (Harper Perennial)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, Phoenix, January 2011


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve read it, oh, half a dozen times, so I was interested to see how Joy in the Morning would compare.

Set in the late 1920s, Joy in the Morning begins when Annie, aged 18, comes to a small Midwestern college town where her fiancĂ©e, Carl, is in law school. The novel opens with their marriage in the county courthouse, and follows the couple through their first year or so of marriage. It’s a struggle, because Carl and Annie are basically children themselves, for all the ways in which Carl tries to appear more adult-like.

Annie is endearing; she’s ignorant but a voracious reader, reading everything from Babbitt to War and Peace. Betty Smith’s novels are pretty autobiographical; Joy in the Morning is (unofficially) a kind of sequel to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—cert…