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A House in the Country by Jocelyn Playfair

A House in the Country (original 1944; edition 2002)

by Jocelyn Playfair (Author)

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13713131,434 (3.57)29
Title:A House in the Country
Authors:Jocelyn Playfair (Author)
Info:Persephone Books Ltd (2002), 264 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, unread

Work details

A House in the Country by Jocelyn Playfair (1944)

  1. 00
    The Demon Lover and Other Stories by Elizabeth Bowen (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: About life in England during World War II
  2. 00
    The Provincial Lady in Wartime by E.M. Delafield (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: About a woman coping with life in World War II

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» See also 29 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
A bit talky in some places but loved it overall, especially Cressida Chance. ( )
  Grier | Mar 29, 2018 |
'...for themselves, personally, the war seems to mean practically nothing', June 12, 2014

This review is from: A House in the Country (Paperback)
Written in the middle of the Second World War, this is the story of Cressida Chance; living in beautiful Brede Manor, she takes in 'paying guests' - a charitable act rather than a money-spinner when housing was in short supply. Cressida has no time for her neighbours who continue their selfish pre-war lives, arguing with one about paying guests:

"I said did she suppose these nice, shy young men liked walking up to private houses and asking for rooms, and being made to feel like commercial travellers or even confidence men, and did she realise that it might be the only chance some wretched couple might have of living together. I'm afraid I even said it might be the last few weeks of any of their lives."

The most outstanding of the guests is Tori, a central European refugee who has undergone horrors abroad, and who engages Cressida in some noble and idealistic conversations on war and Christianity. In complete contrast is Cressida's utterly self-centred elderly Aunt Jessica, who comes to stay.
Interspersed with their lives, we follow Cressida's long-absent lover, Charles, as he is lost at sea after his ship is torpedoed...

Ms Playfair writes quite beautifully:
'Yes, there are the cabbages, she thought, in neat rows, and a pie in the oven, and a thousand bombers going out in a night; five or six thousand highly trained young men with nervous, useful fingers, good at mending wireless sets, playing the piano, tinkering with cars and leaking roofs, doing endless, fiddling invaluable jobs...'

'Life goes on and on. The cabbages stand in rows and somewhere men are clutching at wreckage in wild seas with oil burning on the water. the trains are full of men reading their newspapers, and somewhere old men and women are being driven in herds away from their homes, sleeping in the cold under trees, hiding in cellars and jungles.'

But I found Cressida - that calm, beautiful, wise 37 year old, beloved by all - somewhat hard to warm to. And the last couple of chapters which contain more splendidly noble sentiment than the rest of the book put together, were just too much and spoilt what had been a fairly good novel. ( )
  starbox | Jun 12, 2014 |
WW II. Woman has country estate she opens to people needing a place to live during war. Lots of philosophical meanderings re: war, love; well done. Interesting people - a good read, but not particularly enjoyable. ( )
  Jonlyn | Apr 16, 2014 |
On paper, I should have loved this book, but I didn't. In fact, I didn't like it much at all. Playfair seems to have wanted to write a treatise about war, honour, men, love, etc., rather than a work of fiction. The fiction bits contain some beautifully-written passages, so I wish she'd stuck with that. As it is, this is neither completely fiction nor completely pontification. It's an unsettling combination of the two, and a combination I don't think works very well. I found myself skipping over more and more of it as I went along. But it's not only that. I really couldn't warm to Cressida Chance. All the people (particularly the women) around her are clearly flawed - vain, selfish, silly, etc. But she's this perfect beautiful creature who goes around dispensing wisdom like favours. I abhorred her and wished she could have been just a little more human. ( )
  miss_read | Sep 23, 2013 |
The house in the title is Brede Manor, a perfect country house managed by Cressida Chance while the owner is serving in World War II. Charles Valery put Brede in her capable hands because it offered a home for her and her young son and because he loved her. And Cressida does the beautiful house proud, caring for each room and the valuable museum-quality contents. But Brede is no museum. Far from it. Cressida has opened her home to boarders; a refugee from a Nazi-occupied country, a young couple whose home was destroyed in an air raid, soldiers who needed billets in the area. I found Cressida a wonderful character, but almost too good to be true. As she copes with the difficulties of war she is contrasted with those who are not so tolerant. There is the woman who owns the rose-covered fairy tale cottage who refuses common soldiers and would consider officers only for her spare rooms. Cressida's London aunt acts as though the war was fought just to put obstacles in her life. How difficult it is to cope with only one servant,,,first class compartments on the train are filled with soldiers carrying all manner of bundles...and does Cressida really cook the meals for the household....how quaint to eat in the kitchen.

Meanwhile, yet unknown to Cressida, Charles Valery's ship has been torpedoed and he is the lone survivor. As the days pass and the provisions in the lifeboat dwindle, he ponders the questions of war, society, change and death. Why must wars be fought over and over again? Why is there such a disparity between the rich and poor, the educated and the uneducated? Why can't society get it right?

Playfair comes down hard on the selfish-centered middle class and gentry who want nothing to change. Brede Manor is the safe haven because Cressida judges people on their merits, not their social status or their wealth. And so, the domestic side of the novel illustrates the strains of Charles' thoughts. I enjoyed the novel, but I felt the author was a little too heavy-handed in inserting her personal philosophy in her story.

Post a new comment
  Liz1564 | Sep 5, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jocelyn Playfairprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gorb, RuthPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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