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One Fine Day (1947)

de Mollie Panter-Downes

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3571673,752 (4.29)106
It is a summer's day in 1946. The English village of Wealding is no longer troubled by distant sirens, yet the rustling coils of barbed wire are a reminder that something, some quality of life, has evaporated. Together again after years of separation, Laura and Stephen Marshall and their daughter Victoria are forced to manage without 'those anonymous caps and aprons who lived out of sight and pulled the strings'. Their rambling garden refuses to be tamed, the house seems perceptibly to crumble. But alone on a hillside, as evening falls, Laura comes to see what it would have meant if the war had been lost, and looks to the future with a new hope and optimism. First published in 1947, this subtle, finely wrought novel presents a memorable portrait of the aftermath of war, its effect upon a marriage, charting, too, a gradual but significant change in the nature of English middle-class life.… (mais)
  1. 10
    Lolly Willowes, or The Loving Huntsman de Sylvia Townsend Warner (GeraniumCat)
  2. 00
    Mrs Dalloway de Virginia Woolf (shaunie)
    shaunie: The subject matter is quite different but the writing style is similar, it's a shame One Fine Day is much less well known.
  3. 00
    Between the Acts de Virginia Woolf (shaunie)
    shaunie: Both have a quintessentially early 20th century English setting and both take place over the course of one day.
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Mostrando 1-5 de 16 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
Imagine Mrs. Dalloway taking place during the first summer of peace after the Second World War, and you have something very similar to Panter-Downes's One Fine Day. The prose here is eerily similar to Woolf's, in fact, as well as Bowen's and even Elizabeth Taylor's, but the overarching debt here is very obviously to Woolf's novel.

Much more so than there, though, does Panter-Downes get under the skin of the class system, its destabilization after WWII, and the sense of delusion under which most privileged Brits lived during the war. While Laura holds the center, and causes Panter-Downes to focus a lot on women's changing roles in and out of the domestic sphere, comments about class and aging, class and bias, class and hypocrisy—all combined with an attention to gender—there are some very astute portraits in here, too, of a crisis in masculinity that the war prompted more so than WWI did, a sense of displacement, and, even still, a nationalistic pride and all but unfounded optimism that is never droll, trite, or sentimental.

It's a damn shame this book is out of print; even more so, that Panter-Downes has written several other novels, about which I can find hardly any information at all, anywhere. If anyone finds information out, please do comment below. This is a fantastic writer whose insight into humanity just in the aftermath of chaos is so worthwhile and prescient to read given the current political climate. ( )
1 vote proustitute | Apr 2, 2023 |
A lot of people seem to like this book. But it wasn't really for me. It's a bit melancholy and contemplative as opposed to narrative, though I did like the tone closer to the end.

It more or less felt like a series of essays on postwar Britain, placed in the minds of fictional people. The author felt that journalism was her true forte, which I can understand, because this book is plotless. It is the thoughts and feelings of a British matron, with a bit from her husband and daughter, over the course of one day. And it's mostly just remembering and comparing things from before World War II and after. Similar territory to Angela Thirkell, but with not even a hint of a plot.

By the end of the book you can tell that the husband and wife, while disappointed in their new lifestyle, are probably going to make the best of it and try to enjoy the simpler pleasures more. So I liked that. And especially the part where the woman climbs the hill above the town, a thing she hasn't done for years, marvels at the land, and takes a nap that helps to reset her mind.
However, overall it was quite slow, a book you'd have to be in the right mood for. ( )
  Alishadt | Feb 25, 2023 |
“We are at peace, we will stand, we will stand when you are dust, sang the humming land in the summer evening.”

Although essentially plotless, this short novel, which unfolds on an English summer day a year after the end of World War II, is rich and satisfying, with sympathetic, well-drawn characters and fine prose, full of sharp observations. It revolves around the Marshall family—thirty-eight-year-old Laura, her husband Stephen, and their ten-year-old daughter, Victoria—who live in Wealding, a pleasant village in the commuter belt around London. The book opens at breakfast with the irascible Stephen assigning tasks to his dreamy wife before he leaves for work. Perhaps the biggest problem the once-comfortable Marshalls face is the maintenance of their large house and garden. All the young people have left domestic service for manufacturing jobs and other opportunities in the city. Weeds threaten to overtake the flower beds outside the house, and Laura, an indifferent cook and housekeeper, cannot keep order within. Even with the help of the hefty village busybody, Mrs. Prout, Laura is exhausted much of the time. The dust and spiderwebs collect, the walls look increasingly dingy, and the upholstered furniture is more threadbare and shabby than ever.

Among the tasks Stephen assigns Laura is visiting the Porters, a family that lives in a cramped hovel and breeds like rabbits. Perhaps young George Porter might be interested in employment in the Marshalls’ garden a few evenings a week. There’s also the shopping to do, some cleaning with Mrs. Prout, and the retrieval of the family dog, Stuffy, who’s likely run off to Barrow Down. A gypsy with many dogs of his own lives there in an old railway car, and it’s almost guaranteed that Stuffy will be brought home pregnant yet again.

Although there are chapters dedicated to Victoria, Stephen, and Mrs. Prout, the novel mostly follows Laura as she goes about her day. She reflects on her easeful upbringing as the child of the Herriots, staunch upholders of the British Empire in India; her choosing to marry Stephen, a businessman, rather than the more privileged well-to-do suitor her mother had selected for her; her wartime experiences alone in the house with Victoria, enlivened by the long stays of Laura’s women friends and their children who fled bombarded London for the safety of the English countryside. Mostly, though, Laura thinks about how so much has irrevocably changed since the war. She is aware of her luck in having a husband come home, when so many men did not. Other acquaintances, including a former cook, were lost in the Blitz. Canadian soldiers stationed near Wealding in wartime have left lasting reminders of their sojourn: numbers of fatherless youngsters toddling about. The landed gentry are selling up and relocating. The Cranmers, for example, who’ve lived on a beautiful estate for centuries, have accepted an offer from the National Trust. The manor house is to be used partly as a holiday hostel and partly as an agricultural training centre for boys, while old Mrs. Cranmer and her addled sister-in-law, Aunt Sophia, will be relegated to a small apartment in a made-over wing of the stables. “It’s the only possible thing for all these places,” says Edward, the only surviving Cranmer son. “I couldn’t afford to live here even if I wanted to. [ . . . ] Perhaps we’ve been here long enough. [ . . .] It’s time for a change. And look at it as it is, rotting away! That is what really broke one’s heart.”

In some ways, Panter-Downes’s novel reminds me of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Both books feature a post-war setting, impressionistic prose, and a sensitive female protagonist through whose consciousness a much-altered world is filtered. Woolf’s writing is, of course, more sophisticated—more experimental and more purely stream-of-consciousness in mode—and the inclusion of the shell-shocked soldier, Septimus Warren Smith, makes hers the more melancholy novel. One Fine Day has a lighter touch and a more buoyant tone. It focuses on a fairly conventional marriage and cast of characters, in a rural rather than urban setting, but it contains lovely lyrical writing about the natural world and some sensitive observations about change, marriage, ageing, and the endurance of the land. I really enjoyed the book. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Dec 10, 2020 |
"One Fine Day" is beautifully constructed and written and I regard it as a perfect marvel. ( )
1 vote Picola43 | Jan 18, 2018 |
This was the first book by this author that I really had difficulty getting through. Despite being beautiful and intriguing on a psychological and sociological level, it felt rather dull to me most of the time. It isn't really my kind of book at all, I'm afraid. I'm not sorry I read it, but would not wish to read it again or recommend it to anyone with a brief attention span. ( )
  lydiasbooks | Jan 17, 2018 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 16 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
This is a completely enchanting account of the day's events in the life of Laura Marshall who lives on the South Downs in post-war England. Through flashbacks and reflection, it tells of her relations with her husband Stephen and their young daughter Victoria. As Laura tackles the household chores, the trip to the village, the marketing, the garden, she is filled with the wonderful calm and tranquility of peace in contrast to the hell of the war years - despite the dreary shortages and frustrations. Outstandingly well-written, this has all the delicate flavor, haunting atmosphere, and warmth of Rumer Godden's The River and is also reminiscent of Mrs. Miniver.
adicionado por KMRoy | editarWings - The Literary Guild Review (Nov 1, 1947)
 

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It is a summer's day in 1946. The English village of Wealding is no longer troubled by distant sirens, yet the rustling coils of barbed wire are a reminder that something, some quality of life, has evaporated. Together again after years of separation, Laura and Stephen Marshall and their daughter Victoria are forced to manage without 'those anonymous caps and aprons who lived out of sight and pulled the strings'. Their rambling garden refuses to be tamed, the house seems perceptibly to crumble. But alone on a hillside, as evening falls, Laura comes to see what it would have meant if the war had been lost, and looks to the future with a new hope and optimism. First published in 1947, this subtle, finely wrought novel presents a memorable portrait of the aftermath of war, its effect upon a marriage, charting, too, a gradual but significant change in the nature of English middle-class life.

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