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Mothering Sunday

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  11,468 ratings  ·  1,551 reviews
A luminous, intensely moving tale that begins with a secret lovers' assignation in the spring of 1924, then unfolds to reveal the whole of a remarkable life.

Twenty-two-year-old Jane Fairchild has worked as a maid at an English country house since she was sixteen. For almost all of those years she has been the clandestine lover to Paul Sheringham, young heir of a neighborin
Hardcover, 177 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published April 19th 2016)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  11,468 ratings  ·  1,551 reviews

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Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone imagining getting naked in a library rather than at the beach
Shelves: 2016, reviewed, uk
The gathering evening, the apricot light, the gauzy green-gold world, was impossibly beautiful.


Take a look at this self-conscious woman stretched out languorously with her head on a blue cushion, entirely at ease in her sublimely languid nakedness. Amedeo Modigliani’s Reclining Nude (on the cover of this enchanting novella) perfectly conjures the mysteries surrounding the young protagonist of Mothering Sunday, Jane Fairchild. The sultry look in her nearly closed eyes. How would you imagine her
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Agnieszka by: Ilse

...enjoy your youth…

Mothering Sunday. Such an old-fashioned name for the day when servants had their day-off so they could go home, visit families. In this day the whole world order seemed to be reversed and landlords without daily help of their servants were childly helpless and the routine of housework almost ruined .

Mothering Sunday is a record of one single day, 30 March 1924 and its heroine Jane Fairchild is twenty two then and works at Nivens' household as a maid. She’s an orphan, a foun
The arrestingly beautiful painting on the front cover of my copy of this book is a detail cropped from a larger painting, Nu couché 1917, by Amedeo Modigliani, in which the artist had already chosen to crop the figure's lower legs and hands and the top of the head. On the back cover of the book, the painting is further cropped and becomes even more powerful as a result of the zooming in.
I think Graham Swift's publishing team made an inspired cover choice - I've rarely come across a jacket desig
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"One's literary life must turn frequently for sustenance to memories and seek discourse with the shades; unless one has made up one's mind to write only in order to reprove mankind for what it is, or praise it for what it is not, or – generally – to teach it how to behave." So wrote Joseph Conrad in A Personal Record.

How many times it happens that a single moment conjures up the entire narrative, the whole story seems to evolve from that particular event and still it comes across you so bea
Julie Ehlers
In Mothering Sunday, a young man and a young woman who really shouldn't be consorting with each other have an afternoon assignation. Then the young man leaves, and the young woman, our protagonist, wanders around his house naked for a while, thinking the same thoughts over and over again. She thinks a lot about the fact that she's naked, for instance. And she thinks a lot about a patch of semen left on the sheet of the bed upstairs. (No offense to any men reading this, but most women just don't ...more
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Feast your eyes...

Golden Rain by Leon Francois Comerre

The first half of this seductive novella, Jane Fairchild is reclining much like this: nude, a post-coital feast for the eyes of her lover Paul. She also feasts on him, his "thoroughbred" body and the minutia of his every movement. It is a slow, sensual feast for the reader too, as we share this very private time, which proves to be pivotal in our heroine's life, Mothering Sunday 1924.

Jane is a maid at Beechwood, and today Paul, the dashin
Apr 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This delicious short novel is in many ways a Mother’s Day dream. It is a novel short enough to be read in a long, lazy afternoon; it is a novel for mature audiences, weathered in relationships and outcomes, who bring a kind of life knowledge to one remarkable spring day in 1924 when sunlight poured over yellow and green fields and not a smudge marred the bright blue of the sky. In March a day like June, warm and golden, pregnant with potential and possibility. The strange undercurrent of forebod ...more
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
A secret 7 yr love affair between a young English country maid Jane Fairchild, and a wealthy heir Paul Sheringham, from a neighboring property.

It is spring of 1924. This tells how the events of one day, shaped the life of Jane who lived well into her 90's
Diane Barnes
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is totally my kind of book. The story of a woman's life told through the events of one day in 1924. Beautiful writing. Graham Swift is one of my favorite authors, I'm never disappointed in his books. ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018, modern-lit
It has been several years since I read anything by Graham Swift, but I enjoyed this quiet novella. Most of the book is set on a single day in 1924.

The book has an anonymous third person narrator, but is told from the perspective of Jane Fairchild, an orphan working as a maid in a small country house, who has been involved with Paul Sheringham, a more prosperous young neighbour who is due to marry (largely for money) a few weeks later. He invites her there for Mothering Sunday, having ensured th
[4.5] One of those books for which I wish it was possible to write two reviews addressed to different sets of people, although my rating wouldn't change. There are the friends to whom I'd like to point out that this is middlebrow litfic and that they probably wouldn't like it - but it is a particularly well-written example of its type and contains some meta-stuff about writing that might not be uninteresting if they found themselves stuck with a copy of it at a station/library/relative's house e ...more
Jr Bacdayan
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jr by: Ilse
It is hard to find words with such sincerity and warmth for literature, for life. This isn't perfect, but it feels genuine the way only fiction can. It's simple yet its depth is staggering. No matter what I say, it will be hard to convey these concepts best felt. That's why I'm going to skip the discussion and urge you to get yourself a copy. It’s best read, experienced, and through it lived. Well, isn’t that what books are for anyway? ...more
John Purcell
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Delicious. That's what this book is. Delicious. 

Mothering Sunday reveals Graham Swift to be a master at the peak of his powers. Imagine an artist, a Matisse or a Picasso, deftly sketching a scene or a portrait - a line drawing, seemingly effortless for them to do, just something to capture a moment, to capture a mood. It looks like magic to us, and yet to them, a commonplace. The result of genius and experience.

I imagine Graham Swift talking to his editor about Mothering Sunday. The editor grasp
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Almost five stars because frankly I was completely swept up by it and Janes tale of an affair, with a man she shouldn't have, told at the time and in hindsight. There's a subtle nature to it that makes it beautiful to read and quite heartbreaking in parts. An upside down, flipped around Cinderella story in some ways, though it is the act of a princely type that makes the change in Janes life as well as the man. ...more
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“There never was a day like this, nor even would or could be again.” The day in question is Mothering Day, the day that servants were allowed off to visit their families. It is also the last time that Jane Fairchild, a servant girl, and Paul Sheringham, an upper-class neighbor, will meet for their tryst before he “marries up” and moves to London.

The day – a perfect sunny March day that feels more like June – will start off languishingly and sensually yet will take surprising turns. The initial p
Why read this book? What makes it a book worth four stars? It is this I wish to explain in my review.

Simple answer-- the prose. The lines make you curious. There are puzzles begging to be solved. What is hinted at needs to be understood. The lines are tantalizing. Ideas are well expressed.

We learn of a woman’s life. She is not merely an orphan, she is a foundling. In an English orphanage, a good English orphanage, she is educated--she learns to both read and write. At fourteen she was put int
Sally Green
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I found this book exceptionally moving. Beautifully told and on the face of it this is a simple story, although the structure is not straightforward (though it's never confusing). I'm sure other reviews can tell you the characters if you want to know (I always prefer not to) though I have to say that character of Paul is hardly described but each aspect is perfect.
We know there is going to be a bad thing happening and we're told the bad thing half way through the book. The build up to and inevit
Joachim Stoop
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
Oh, how I disliked this short novel! It's a really thin 'where did I read this before'story. Much ado about nothing... The language is ok, but never wow. I was quite amazed by how such a short book could have such a nagging tone.
When I read the positive reviews on this one, I feel that we read a totally different book.

Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
The only bad thing I could possibly say about this sensual, sweeping tale of a life from poor maid to famous writer would be that I wish it'd been longer, which just might be the highest praise I could give this novel made of perfect prose.

This one was awesome on audio.
Jan 30, 2017 rated it liked it
This story mainly happens during one day in March 1924. A maid is having a relationship with the young master of a neighbouring house just before he marries someone from his own background. You get the feeling they would both like this to be different. A short read and an okay story.
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Simply wonderful. I'd never really warmed to Graham Swift in the past, but now think I need to revisit his earlier novels. And I'd much rather read Swift doing English eroticism than Ian McEwan any day. (On Chesil Beach came to mind, but how different this is.)

The novel(la) is relatively elliptical but contains entire worlds and thoughts and time periods, and there are tiny asides that speak volumes (causing me to agree with with the NYT critic quoted on the back cover who said that "the depth o
Another author ticked off of my (non-existent) list of authors I need to read.

Mothering Sunday is aimlessly meandering through one day - 30th of March, 1924 - in the life of the twenty-two-year-old Jane Fairchild, who's a maid. She's been having a seven-year amorous relationship with Paul Sheringham, an upper-class young man, who's soon to marry for convenience. On that particular day, a day when servants were given the day off to go visit their mothers or families, Jane goes into Paul's house,
switterbug (Betsey)
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
“Once upon a time,” is half of Swift’s sly first line, “before the boys were killed…” is a fairytale opening followed by a gut punch. And that won’t be the last of those moments that hit you like a fist. I’ve never read Swift before, but his acute word choices, lean prose, subversive undertones, recursive prose, and refined layering mark him as a mature word master and subtle storyteller. This tale centers on the life of Jane, a maid to an upper-class family, set in Berkshire, England, 1924, on ...more
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm really not going to haggle on the praise that has already gotten this magisterial piece of writing. But just one little remark: there is a fairly large difference between the first and the second half of the story.

The first half is downright sublime, especially by its languorous rhythm: it is as if you are really in the head of the domestic Jane Fairchild, lying stretched out, nude (after love making) in the bed of her lover Paul, unscrupulously looking around, and also afterwards walking n
May 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Well once again I feel like a lone voice in a roar of accolades. This book is about a woman looking back on a day that meant so much to her and which changed the course of her life- Sounds awesome, but it just did not do it for me. I will say if you like books with a poetic flow, this book is for you. If you like books that are introspective, this book is for you. I know this book was not for me- left me flat and disappointed. I had read a phenomenal review on this book, and decided to read it s ...more
Fiona MacDonald
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
A delicate and gentle novel about the intricacies of class and the relationships that shape people behind closed doors. The novel is primarily set on Mothering Sunday in 1924 and revolves around a 7 year affair that involves Jane the maid and Paul the Master of the house. On Mothering Sunday the pair meet as usual, this time before Paul goes to meet his wife to be in Henley but neither realizes the enormity of a tragedy that will soon befall them. A really clever narrative that needs to be savou ...more
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Taste this:

"All the scenes. All the scenes that never occur, but wait in the wings of possibility."

"We are fuel. We are born, and we burn, some of us more quickly than others. There are different kinds of combustion. But not to burn, never catch fire at all, that would be a sad life, wouldn't it?"

A slow read, aloud, by the stove. Perfect.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of adult fiction
3,5 stars. I love how short stories can surprise you. Because Mothering Sunday isn’t a sweet tale about Mother’s Day, but a fascinating, mature insight into a young woman’s life, just on the day everything will change for her.

On a remarkable day in March, “warm and golden, pregnant with potential and possibility”, housemaid Jane Fairchild gets the day off from her boss. Following the tradition of Mothering Sunday every servant gets time to visit his or her mother, but Jane is a foundling and th
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Centering on a single afternoon in the life of Jane Fairchild, Mothering Sunday is a short and bittersweet read. In 1924, Jane is an orphaned maid with two things on her mind, books and the local landowner's son, Paul Sheringham. On Mothering Sunday, it is tradition for maids to be with their mothers, but for Jane, she spends what will be her last day of intimacy with Paul who is due to be married in a few weeks to a woman of high social standings.

This would be a day that would make the Jane int
Ron Charles
Mar 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels-about-art
Graham Swift’s “Mothering Sunday” seems at first like a grab for some “Downton Abbey” love, but it’s really a demonstration of what this Booker winner can do in the tight space of a single day.

The novella focuses on March 30, 1924, “when there were no longer horses” in Berkshire, England. A servant girl named Jane Fairchild takes advantage of the holiday to slip off to the Sheringhams’ grand home and sleep with Master Paul. Seven years earlier, when they were teenagers, Paul paid her for sex, bu
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Snippets That Ins...: All Aflame? 1 13 Nov 19, 2016 04:35AM  
"It was the magic, the perfect politics of nakedness." 1 14 Aug 21, 2016 07:39AM  

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Graham Colin Swift FRSL (born May 4, 1949) is an English author. He was born in London, England and educated at Dulwich College, London, Queens' College, Cambridge, and later the University of York. He was a friend of Ted Hughes.

Some of his works have been made into films, including Last Orders, which starred Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins and Waterland which starred Jeremy Irons. Last Orders was a

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