Jane Fairchild, orphaned at birth, has worked as a maid at an English country estate since she was sixteen. And for almost all of those years, she has been the secret lover of Paul Sheringham, the scion of the estate next door. On an unseasonably warm March afternoon, when all the servants have been let off work for the day in order to pay their annual visits to their families, Jane and Paul will make love for the last time in Paul's own bedroom--though not, as Jane believes, because Paul is about to be married.
The events of the day will alter Jane's life forever. As the narrative moves back and forth from 1924 to the end of the century, what we know and understand about Jane, about the way she loves, thinks, feels, sees and remembers, deepens with every beautifully wrought moment. Her story is one of profound self-discovery and, through her, Graham Swift has created an emotionally soaring and deeply affecting work of fiction.
“A dazzling novel. . . . Alive with sensuousness and sensuality. . . . Wonderfully accomplished, it is an achievement as brilliant as its weather.” —Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times
“[A] marvellous new novel. . . . From start to finish Swift’s is a novel of stylish brilliance and quiet narrative verve. The archly modulated, precise prose (a hybrid of Henry Green and Kazuo Ishiguro) is a glory to read. Now sixty-six, Swift is a writer at the very top of his game.” —Evening Standard
“Mothering Sunday is . . . a kind of feminist Cinderella, set at the close of the Downton Abbey era, about a young maidservant’s coming-of-age. . . . [Mothering Sunday] is also a carefully chiseled story. . . . Mr. Swift’s novels have long had a bookish air about them. . . . But [Mothering Sunday] wears such borrowings lightly. As a result, [Mothering Sunday] feels less self-consciously literary than Mr. Swift’s earlier novels, and while it has a haunting, ceremonious pace, [Mothering Sunday] also possesses a new emotional intensity.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“[M]othering Sunday is, like everything Swift writes, quite unlike anything Swift has written before, and subtly teasing.” —The Times
“Swift is an undoubted master of detail and delay, working by a process of meditation and accumulation to create a narrative that carries far more heft than one might assume from its length. . . . Mothering Sunday is . . . a Conradian homage to a well-spring of inspiration. . . . You can hear his master’s voice echoing through the pages of this deceptively fine novel.” —James Runcie, The Independent
“[F]or all the detailed examination of character and the bold sweep of time, there is not a word wasted. . . . [A] lesson in poetic brevity. With a clear focus on the possibilities of the short form, he achieves a delicate harmony between the cool detachment of the narrative voice and the intensity of emotion conveyed on every page. This is a rare read indeed.” —Ellah Allfrey, The Spectator
“[P]rofoundly moving. . . . Mothering Sunday features the restrained and yet emotive prose for which Swift is renowned. Repeated refrains give the novel an almost musical quality, like a Bach prelude and fugue reworking and reinventing themes and ideas. Not only do they bring a musicality and a coherence to the narrative, they add urgency and immediacy; an ominous sense that one must hold on to these refrains because everything is about to change catastrophically. . . . Mothering Sunday is a powerful, philosophical and exquisitely observed novel about the lives we lead, and the parallel lives—the parallel stories—we can never know. . . . It may just be Swift’s best novel yet.” —The Observer
“Mothering Sunday is bathed in light; and even when tragedy strikes, it blazes irresistibly. Its sustained note is one of exultation, at the writer’s ruthless impulse to grind up disaster and move on. . . . Swift’s small fiction feels like a masterpiece.” —Christobel Kent, The Guardian
“Swift has written a book that is not just his most moving and intricate but his most engrossing too.” —Financial Times
“[A] dazzling read: sexy, stylish, subversive. You finish it and immediately read it again, because . . . it’s a marvellous novel of possibilities. . . . [A] ravishing work of art.” —The Herald
“Jane is a marvellous creation who can seem wry, world-weary, innocent, or lusty, bringing to mind Molly Bloom. Swift has fun with language, with class conventions, and with narrative expectations in a novel where nothing is as simple or obvious as it seems at first.” —Kirkus Reviews
“[Mothering Sunday is a] consummate novella. . . . The marvel of this little book is its unhurried, unforced inclusion of so much significance and drama in such a small space. Right from its emblematic opening, ‘Once upon a time, before the boys were killed and when there were more horses than cars,’ you realize [that Mothering Sunday] will be a story far bigger than its 132 pages. [Mothering Sunday is] rich with cool yet lyrical prose and potent images. . . . [Mothering Sunday is] also a story about stories, and ‘the great fabrication’ of writing. Swift takes these tired tropes and works them into vistas of great distance and an even greater riddle. . . . [Mothering Sunday is] a little island of prodigious treasures.” —The New Zealand Herald
“[P]owerful and intricately layered. . . . [W]ith every sentence counting, and not a word out of place, it is his most perfectly formed. . . . As ever, Swift beguiles and impresses with detail and ideas. . . . [E]ngaging and exquisite.” —The Australian