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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?

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