I loved the cover and picked this up at my second hand book foray yesterday and I am so glad I did. The book set in a Liverpool suburb initially in a fine house is abruptly changed to a run down cottage in Hoylake. Louise the widow has never handled responsibilities in her life, does not know anything about finances, or how the world operates and seems to live in a little cocoon of what respectable ladies do and say and everything out of this realm is really not quite right! Looking down her nose at trade, at women working, at widows forced into employment as a result of the huge dearth of men after World War I, her attitude towards her loyal servants is to be abhorred. You get quite irritated with Louise and think she deserves all she gets. After all, she is not destitute. She has six "little"houses from which she gets a rent, she is the owner of the house in Liverpool which she can sell (which she hates to do) and is really not badly off.
The next character is Celia - the downtrodden 24 year old daughter who is considered old and a confirmed spinster. From her teenage days Celia has been made out to be ill, not good looking (plain), and only serves literally as a servant earning the same amount of money as Ethel the parlour maid. Celia realizes rather late in the day how badly she has been treated by her father who is now dead, and her mother who couldnt care less how she manages her life, as long as breakfast, lunch and dinner and hot water of course is available to her as and when she needs it!
The nioe part of the story is the rebuilding of the character of Celia with a little help from Edna (also widowed and returning from Brazil - this is the clever, pretty elder sister), and from villagers who begin to realize poor Celia's plight very early on in the day. How Celia finds love and family makes it a kind of happy ending. There is a fair amount of bereavement due to the wars - starting from WW1 and ending in the Falkland war and the futility of all the deaths is very stark. The effect it has on the lives of women left behind is seen at every turn - not just on the main characters of this story.
Bereavement and getting on with life was dealt with a more or less stiff upper lip in public. In private you could grieve as much as you wish. This is sad for me because here in Sri Lanka sadness could be expressed very freely and you wont be thought less for it. Some people may like to grieve very publicly and for some it is a very private thing. It is something for me to think on!
I enjoyed this book very much and read it through in one go. I have now started on Jewel in the Crown and as usual I love books set in India, also love books with a colonial setting.
We go to Jaffna on a three day holiday tomorow night - no internet access. So see you all on Monday.