There are more books being published by Dean Street Press in their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint in August and I’ve been fortunate enough to receive three of them for review in e-book format – thank you, Rupert, once again! I picked up this one as it was the first one I received and I do like a book set in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, looking at how people picked themselves up and got on with life, much, in fact, like “Not at Home,” the last DSP book I read! In this case, though, rather than patching themselves up in London, our heroes escape the city almost totally …

Ruth Adam – “A House in the Country”

(10 June 2020)

This claims to be a novel, but the whole thing, from the author’s identical-to-life family circumstances through the well-known real-life visitors to the arc of their life in a Kentish manor house, following the seasons, developing relationships, gaining and losing friends, but not seemingly shaped by fictional requirements, seems to shriek memoir to me. Which is fine, of course! And it feels very true to life and has just the details I love.

Just post-war and “very tired of squalor”, a group of six friends decide to pool their resources and rent a manor house in Kent they have fallen in love with. They expect to live in huge amounts of space and rural and domestic bliss after having been crammed into small shared properties in London through the war years, and at first, yes, they have large sets of rooms each, in which their own and new furniture seems to get swallowed up and rattle around.

But it’s very hard to get good domestic help that doesn’t have odd circumstances or develop strangenesses (they even try subletting part of the house to another family, which goes about as well as it does in “Not at Home”, thinking about it) and the house refuses to even attempt to earn its keep and demands to be served instead. There are darknesses and moments of comedy, and real sadness when the household almost inevitably breaks up. There’s the horror of a health crisis for our heroine/narrator, foreshadowed by a few comments by the help who seem to act as a mirror to the household sometimes, before they eventually have to give up and leave.

I love Adam’s matter-of-fact voice (a bit flat and Comyns-like, which I of course adore) and her practicality – why go into a nursing home when having your baby is the most exciting thing that could happen and much better done in a falling-down house, for example. A good read and a good record of the times.

Thank you to Rupert at Dean Street Press for sending me this book in return for an honest review.

I’m back on the 20BooksofSummer for my next few reads but it won’t be long before I bring up another Dean Street Press book on the Kindle!