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3.40  ·  Rating details ·  126 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Penelope Fitzgerald wrote: ‘If I could have back one of the many Winifred Peck titles I once possessed I would choose House-Bound. The story never moves out of middle-class Edinburgh; the satire on genteel living, though, is always kept in relation to the vast severance and waste of the war beyond. The book opens with a grand comic sweep as the ladies come empty-handed awa ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published 2007 by Persephone Books (first published October 1942)
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Sep 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
I always feel as if I’m in safe hands when I pick up a Persephone book – it’s rare I’m ever disappointed and then usually only slightly. I was right; this is another of those Persephone books about a family that I generally find I love so much. On the face of it House-Bound is a novel about an upper middle- class woman who suddenly has to manage her rather unmanageable house herself, as her remaining staff leave to undertake war work. However it is of course about rather more than that.

Set in Ed
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 18tbr, fiction, persephone
With Britain at war, difficulties finding servants seem trivial to Rose, compared to the dangers faced by her two sons, one in the Air Force and one in the Army, so she decides to take on the housework herself — cleaning, cooking, making the fires, answering the constantly ringing door, etc. — as her contribution to the war effort. While this might seem unheroic to a modern reader, Rose’s task is complicated by her inexperience (should vegetables be washed with or without soap?), a large and inc ...more
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
An eye-opening account of one woman's transition during WWII from a house staffed by servants to a house run by herself. Since I run my own house, I was inclined in the beginning to poke fun at her, but I never realized what a pain it would be, when you were raised to be a lady with no practical education, to take care of a house that was designed to be staffed by servants. Her kitchen isn't in the middle of everything like mine is, it's in the basement and you have to carry everything up and do ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: middlebrow
I found the premise of this book very promising; Rose, an upper-middle class woman in 1940s Scotland who cannot get any servants decides to take on the care of her own home, and begins the struggle to understand both the practical realities of the work, and also what it means that she feels she must 'keep up a standard' which is about the flowers on the table rather than the labour that puts them there.

This was good, and the human relationships were interesting, and I was enjoying it, but (view
Jan 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: persephone
I think it's quite hard for us these days to relate to an Edinburgh woman who was brought to her knees by having to do her own housework after a lifetime of assuming there would always be somebody to do it for her. These days, even the upper classes have to make sure kids of both sexes have some idea how to cook before they go off to university, but before the second world war, for people of a certain class,it was unthinkable. Rose Fairlaw is of that class and when she finds she has to cope with ...more
Jun 03, 2008 rated it liked it
The story was a little awkward and unintentionally strange, but I loved it anyway. Written during WWII and set in "Castleburgh" (Edinburgh), it’s full of apprehensive ruminations about the new world order. (In that way, it reminded me a bit of A House in the Country, the Jocelyn Playfair novel that Annette’s friend Alison gave me, thus starting my whole obsession with Persephone Books.) The main character is Rose, and Rose’s daughter, Flora, is one of the most unpleasant people I’ve ever met in ...more
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a lovely book.
Set in a middle class family in Edingburgh at the time of WW2.
All the servants have left or gone to the munitions factory.
Rose the mistress of the house finds herself with no servants so she takes on the house herself.
Having never done any housework this is so funny.
There is so much more to this book with the children and sad times of loss.
It was a very enjoyable book and I loved it.
Nov 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: persephone
In a weird way, I wanted more about the actual cleaning and caring for the house.
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Edinburgh 1941. No more servants. So how do you get from a potato, dirty and solid, to something that comes out of the oven roasted and crackly on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside? And how do you cope with WW2, and the things that happen? Shows it's age, but definitely worth reading.

I note one comment that says that "..... this was implausible" - Really? Not a bit of it, for this was a time (between the two world wars) when employees decided there was more to life than cleaning the
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it though I don't have enough Latin to translate some of the quotations which was rather an irritation.
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Absolutely bemused by this book. Frustrating on one hand, yet fascinating and, on occasion, unflinchingly honest.
Jun 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: persephone
It really was amazingly daft of me to think that I could read a Persephone book set in a World War safely at my desk in the staff room. I had to make three hasty trips to the bathroom, but I don't think anyone suspected me of tears. Anyway!

I got the impression that this would be light comedy, a satire on the helplessness of a particular class of middle-class women. Instead, well. There was humour, but it was the sort of humour that arises out of the clash of normal human interactions and even th
Jul 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: persephone-books
Quite a difficult book to review. Although it starts as the story of a well-to-do lady trying to manage her home without servants as a consequence of WW2, it's actually really about her family relationships: how she realises there are problems and how she tries to fix them, but this part of the story only gets underway after about 100 pages.

I enjoyed it, but it is flawed. Three big events happen at the end and I felt that was one or two too many. Some of the house issues do drag (although I rea
Clare Harvey
Nov 30, 2015 rated it liked it
I actually didn't finish this book. I finally gave up on it last night. I usually love Persephone titles because they're well written and give an insight into the period I write about myself. However, this one was just too slow-moving for me. There were vast chunks of internal monologue. It wasn't badly written, but I just found myself not really caring about the flaky middle-class characters one way or the other. I think, perhaps, it was very much a book of its time, and of its class. Reading i ...more
Stephanie Stennett
Nov 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Wish I'd liked this one more. I felt sure I would, but the religious discussions in the middle spoiled it a bit for me. But it wasn't bad- some passages quite memorable. I made many notes and underlined quite a lot, which I don't do to Bad or Boring books. (Unless something's so bad, I need to share it!). And I finished it- I have no problem with abandoning things I'm not enjoying.
And I didn't read it in five days. I'd started earlier. Just went back and finished it.
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it
This is an odd book, but it has one of the best descriptions of a troubled relationship between mother and daughter I've ever read. It reminded me of the relationship between my grandmother and aunt, and felt absolutely true to life. It has stayed with me long after I finished the book - and to be honest, I don't remember too much about the rest of the book other than it was an enjoyable and light read.
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
House-Bound is set in middle-class Edinburgh during the Second World War. Due to there being no servants available to look after her household, Rose Fairlaw decides to do the work herself, but she is clueless about cleaning and cooking, and her husband is certainly going to be no help to her. An enjoyable peek into those times.
Deirdre Walsh
Apr 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was introduced to this book via the BBC radio 4 programme "A Good Read" and immediately ordered it. It took me a while to read it and there were occasions where the writer lost my attention and caused me to skim back to the story as such. However I would recommend it to anybody interested in WWII life of the upper middle class.
Amy Foster
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Totally disappointed in this bizarre book filled with unlikeable characters and improbable situations.
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lovely book about the shackles of domesticity during a changing time.
Ruth Parkin
Sep 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
A little odd but wonderfully atmospheric. A bit like Waugh only in the home instead of in the Club.
Mills College Library
Fiction P3675h 2007
May 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
Worth reading, but probably only once. Gets a bit sentimental.
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Lady Winifred Peck (née Knox), born 1882, was a member of a remarkable family. Her father was Edmund Arbuthnott Knox, the fourth Bishop of Manchester, and her siblings were E. V. Knox, editor of Punch magazine, Ronald Knox, theologian and writer, Dilly Knox, cryptographer, Wilfred Lawrence Knox, clergyman, and Ethel Knox. Peck’s niece was the Booker Prize-winning author Penelope Fitzgerald who wro ...more
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