“Once upon a time, before the boys were killed and when there were more cars than horses, before the male servants disappeared and they made do, at Upleigh and at Beechwood, with just a cook and a maid, the Sheringhams had owned not just four horses in their own stable, but what might be called a “real horse,” a racehorse, a thoroughbred. Its name was Fandango.”
This small novel begins on the morning of “Mothering Sunday” which we learn (actually a few times in the novel) was an older term for Mother’s Day. Jane is an adult, but was an orphan as a child and now 22, she works as a maid in a house owned by the Nivens. Jane gets a call on Mother’s Day that her sometimes lover is around if she wants to come around. The novel more or less begins in bed, as two young people are in the throes of passion, naked, and enjoying each other’s company and it stays this way for awhile. It’s 1924, so these kinds of things perhaps seem shocking. What we come to better understand is that Jane and her lover Paul have known each other for a long time, and the class differences (it’s his family’s estate no less) are obvious hindrances to any sense of a future. Paul is actual soon to be married, something that Jane spends a lot of time thinking about as she wonder if this will be the last time she ever sees him or if the expectation is that she kind of always be available. She does know she can’t marry him. Things progress from here as the day moves forward and Jane thinks about her place in the world. More happens in this part of the story, but I won’t get into that.
Instead, it’s interesting to think about the narrative perspective here and how we are receiving this story from Jane well into the future, now in her 80s writing a kind of literary autobiography of herself, which we understand comes after a long and illustrious career. It’s an interesting idea that ends up being a little underdeveloped here. The novel has been recently filmed, and it’s fair to wonder if this short novel, with the long scope was always meant for possible adaptation.