Title: One Fine Day
Author: Mollie Panter-Downes
Date Finished: 19 Jan 2009
My Rating: 5
Challenges: Decades, New Author, Library, Numbers, 100 +
In this beautiful and lyrically told novel Mollie Panter-Downes chronicles a day in the life of the Marshall family, a middle class family living in post World War II England.
While Britain has come out of the war victorious, life has not returned to what it once was and for most, it never will.
The change the Marshall family feels most keenly is domestic. They have been left to manage a house and garden without the servants that they once had.
"And it suddenly struck him as preposterous how dependent he and his class had been on the anonymous caps and aprons who lived out of sight and worked the strings. All his life he had expected to find doors opened if he rang, to wake up to the soft rattle of curtain rings being drawn back, to find the fires bright and the coffee smoking hot every morning as though household spirits had been working while he slept. And now the strings had been dropped, they all lay helpless as abandoned marionettes with nobody to twitch them."
The gardener who kept Stephen's garden growing and vital was killed in Holland. The maid, nanny and cook left to help with the war effort and won't be returning. Finding new help is all but impossible as the younger generation looks to expanding possibilities that have opened up beyond their country villages.
Flighty Laura is left to keep the once beautiful, now crumbling, house together and keep dinner from boiling over, burning or being eaten by the cat. Stephen is left with only the occasional help of a slow, plodding, half-deaf old man in the garden. Their daughter, Victoria, does not remember much about life before the war and does not understand her parent's present concerns and stresses.
Mollie Panter-Downes created a very powerful, character driven novel illustrating how life has been irrevocably changed on all levels of society following the war. Through following the seemingly mundane day in the life of one family on a hot summer day we see an entire nation coming to grips with a new way of life and a new social order.
While there is a strong sense of what has been lost throughout the novel, there is also a sense of hope and optimism.
"But never, even then, had Laura felt quite this rush of overwhelming thankfulness, so that the land swam and misted and danced before her. She had had to lose a dog and climb a hill, a year later, to realize what it would have meant if England had lost. We are at peace, we still stand, we will stand when you are dust, sang the humming land in the summer evening."
Originally published in 1947 this novel examines the war and it's impact on those left to pick up the pieces of a post war life.