The Village by Marghanita Laski

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After having enjoyed Little Boy Lost last summer I knew I had to read another book by Marghanita Laski so I decided to buy myself The Village by the same author for Christmas. I think I expected something with the same tone and feel as Little Boy Lost, but this novel is quite different from that excellent novel. However, though the feel is not the same I enjoyed it for its view of a changing village in the years after WWII.

The novel revolves around the story of a secret romance between young Margaret Trevor, a girl who comes from an upper/middle class family and Roy Wilson, a veteran from a working class family. Their mothers worked together in a Red Cross Post during the war, but once the war is over there is no question of them socializing with each other ever again. This knowledge is unquestioned by Wendy Trevor, Margaret’s unsatisfied, bitter, highly critical mother. She sees Margaret as a failure because she’s shy, reserved and hasn’t done well in school like her younger sister has. Everyone in their social circle agrees that the only path for Margaret to take is that of wife and mother – and Margaret has no objection to this as it’s exactly the life she wants for herself. But of course they all see her with someone of their own class and not with someone like Roy Wilson.

Roy is kind, hard-working, ambitious and wants a family. He and Margaret quickly fall in love after meeting at a dance, but their romance is conducted very stealthily as Margaret knows that her parents would never consent to her marriage with someone from such a different background from herself.

This is all conducted against a background of an altered economic climate with the working class making money and the middle class living in genteel poverty. There’s also a definite sense that the middle class citizens in the village feel threatened by the new confidence the working class has gained since the war.

The young romance can’t stay hidden forever and there is an inevitable clash at the end of the novel – between the old and the new, the traditional and the modern, the young and the old. Laski skillfully uses the classic plot of star crossed lovers to play up all the ways that England was changing in the fifties. Her characters are perhaps not so complex, but they do powerfully portray the various factions in this new world.

The Village is a fascinating post-war novel yet I think Mollie Panter-Downes’s One Fine Day, which shares similar themes to The Village, is a superior post-war book – I’d recommend it highly if you’re interested in this time period.

Now I’ll move on to To Bed With Grand Music by Laski – another Christmas present to myself!

18 comments / Add your comment below

  1. This is one of the Persephone books I’ve had my eye on, for my next order. I had no idea what the story is about though. From the title – and from reading The Victorian Chaise-Longue, I thought it might be more of a Gothic story.

    I still need to read Little Boy Lost before I order any more of her books though.

    1. As Helen says below, I believe that all of her novels are very different. I have The Victorian Chaise-Longue too – will have to read that one soon also. You really must read Little Boy Lost – it is wonderful!

  2. I loved this book, one of my favorite Persephones. I remember there was one point from the book that I found really insightful, about class consciousness in America vs. England. One of the characters points out that even though there’s more class mobility in the US, we still have class consciousness that’s tied in with racism. I think it’s spot-on.

    And I still haven’t read One Fine Day! I’ve checked it out from the library numerous times and never gotten around to reading it.

    1. I do remember that scene – yes, very astute observation! I did like the American wife of the new family in town. One Fine Day is so, so good – I hope you get to it one day.

  3. I have read Laski’s The Victorian Chaise-Longue – this sounds like it is in a very different vein though. I would like to read Little Boy Lost and I hope you enjoy To Bed With Grand Music.

  4. I’m glad you enjoyed this, even if it wasn’t really what you were expecting. It does seem that Laski’s novels are all quite different. Little Boy Lost is probably my favourite Persephone so far!

  5. I enjoyed this one but not as much as Little Boy Lost. Luckily I can borrow To Bed with Grand Music, from the library and I requested it recently so should be getting it soon.

  6. I read The Victorian Chaise-Longue and Little Boy Lost, really liked the latter, couldn’t get through the former, and somehow decided that Laski was Not For Me. In retrospect, that wasn’t particularly fair — it could just as easily have been TVCL that was the outlier, and not Little Boy Lost. I should go back and see; I think my library has a few others of her novels.

    1. I have tried to read TVCL and haven’t really liked it, but I’m willing to give it another go. I don’t know if The Village would make you a Laski fan – it had some good bits, but was not as stunning as Little Boy Lost. I’ll have to let you know about To Bed With Grand Music!

  7. I have just re-read ‘One Fine Day’ and last read ‘The Village’ at the end of last year. I do like Laski’s work, as much as I do E H Young’s.

  8. When I was 12 years old, I saw the film Little Boy Lost and it stole my heart completely. I wept buckets at the end. I would love to read the novel, and now I have the particulars it will go on my list. Thank you. And I’m interested in other novels by this author. Wonderful!
    Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

    1. The novel will steal your heart too! It is so wonderful. I love Laski and am looking forward to reading “To Bed With Grand Music” soon. Thanks for stopping by!

Thank you for reading and commenting.

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