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The Village

by Marghanita Laski
Persephone book no:

51 52 53


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A Well Full of Leaves
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AFTERWORD BY JULIET GARDINER
312pp
ISBN 9781903155424

'If anyone asked me to describe life in post-war Britain,' commented Sarah Crompton in the Daily Telegraph, 'I would suggest they read The Village, a 1952 story of lovers divided by class that tells you more about the subtle gradations of life in the Home Counties and the cataclysmic changes wrought by war and a Labour government than any number of plays by JB Priestley or more famous tomes by Greene and Waugh.'

The Village begins on the very day the war ended. Two women, who have been firm friends during the war, go as usual to the Red Cross Post. Here they spend the night as they always had done, chatting over a cup of tea. As dawn breaks they lock the door 'but still they lingered, unwilling finally to end this night and the years behind it. "There's a lot of us will miss it," Edith said. "We've all of us felt at times, you know, how nice it was, like you and me being able to be together and friendly, just as if we were the same sort, if you know what I mean." "I'll miss it a lot too," Wendy said. There was no point in her saying that it could go on now, the friendliness and the companionship and the simple liking of one woman for another. Both knew that this breaking down of social barriers was just one of the things you got out of the war, but it couldn't go on.'

As Charlotte Moore wrote in the Spectator: 'This traditionally organised novel of English village life is more than a gentle dig at quirky English behaviour. It is a precise, evocative but unsentimental account of a period of transition; it's an absorbing novel, and a useful piece of social history.'

Endpaper

The endpaper is a printed cotton designed by Margaret Simeon for John Lewis in 1946. In her review Charlotte Moore praised this 'lovely Persephone reprint with a pearly grey cover and endpapers like the maids' bedroom curtains in a Victorian country house.'

Picture Caption

The homecoming of Private Bill Martin from Burma winter 1945-6 taken from We'll Meet Again (1984) ed. Robert Kee


Read What Readers Say

BooksPlease

‘The Village’ is not only a love story, it is a novel exploring the issues of class and social mobility, family relationships, parental control and the position of women… I thought at first that this book was not as good as ‘Little Boy Lost’, which I loved, but as I read on I realised the simple direct style of writing contained depth and complexity and by the end I was convinced I was living in the village, among these people at that time ... it is absorbing reading.

HAFerdinand

‘The Village' is not so much a character study as an acute and overtly political piece of writing, which lays bare the more ludicrous elements of the British class system as it stood at a crossroads moment. At the heart of this broiling story is a relation- ship between two younger residents whose relatively innocent desire to be with each other stirs up a furore of gossip and indignation. A union between the two classes is unthinkable to the gentry on the hill, the thin edge of the wedge. But actually, they’ve got their eye on the wrong wedge altogether. The real threat to their superior status is not the risk of being made a “laughing stock” in the eyes of the lower orders, but in their loosening economic hold. Their worth is rapidly diminishing, gentility no longer enough to set them apart. Laski tells an engrossing story. While so many aspects of the entrenched gentry views are odious to us now, laughable even, Laski paints its adherents to some extent as victims themselves. There is one negative aspect about the Persephone novels: they end. I’ve read so many of them and invariably reach their final pages with a little flutter of sad panic.

Northern Reader (via Instagram)

‘The Village’ is a powerful book which exposes the class divisions and snobbery that survived the War, but which were being challenged every day. There are some harsh words spoken, some sadness revealed, but there is also some amusement to be found in an account of a community which is still divided between them and us. The rules of hospitality, of minor slights, of misunderstandings make for a sometimes amusing, always fascinating novel. Laski can be criticised for her hyper awareness of class, but this is a truthful account of the way that people divide people along unwritten lines, and it is a very readable novel of a time seventy-five years ago.

Categories: Architecture Country Life Love Story

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