Magazine article The Spectator

The Village

Magazine article The Spectator

The Village

Article excerpt

Posh and common THE VILLAGE by Marghanita Laski Persephone, £10, pp. 302, ISBN 1903155428

This is one of those lovely Persephone reprints with a pearly grey cover and endpapers like the maids' bedroom curtains in a Victorian country house. The title, too, suggests that one is in for a soothing read. Marghanita Laski provides a complete dramatis personae, to add to the reader's comfort. If one were to confuse Miss Porteous with Miss Moodie, or Green the ironmonger with Brotherton the stationer, one could just flip back to the beginning and check.

Sure enough, this is a traditionally organised novel of English village life. In Priory Dean, everybody knows everyone else's business, feathers are ruffled over where the annual fete is to he held, women suffer from delicate ailments that can only be hinted at, and the arrival of a newcomer, an American to boot, causes a flurry of anxious interest. But The Village is more than a gentle dig at quirky English behaviour. It was first published in 1952, and Laski is prescient about the immense social andpolitical upheavals that transformed England in the second half of the 20th century.

As the story begins, Mrs Trevor, who is gentry, and Mrs Wilson, who is workingclass, share their last duty night at the Red Cross post, while the rest of the villagers celebrate victory in Europe round a bonfire. Both women sense that this will be the last time they will share emotional closeness - the class barriers lowered by national emergency will be swiftly re-erected. But what do class distinctions mean, now that so much has changed? …

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