In Mothering Sunday, the new novel from Man Booker winner Graham Swift (Last Orders), we meet Jane Fairchild, the maid without a family to visit on the traditional servants’ day off. Instead, Jane rides her bicycle to nearby home Upleigh to visit her lover, young man of the house Paul Sheringham – and unknowingly sets a tragedy in motion.
We see different versions of Jane – in 1924 on that fateful Mothering Sunday she is a young, not quite so naïve maid in the employ of the Niven family at Beechwood, who loves nothing more than to curl up with a book politely borrowed from her employer’s library. Decades into the future, Jane is a well-respected author who has led a full life, but still cannot shake the memories of that fateful day.
Swift stays masterfully in control of the narrative, balancing clues to Jane’s past with her omniscient voice in the present. Her character is both strong and sensual, and knows what she wants from the world. Jane’s story is at turns gripping, heartbreaking and unforgettable.