Who hasn’t dreamed of a quiet life in the country with no too-close neighbors intruding? As my children have reached the age of house-hunting [we live in a very cheap rural area] they each have shown a preference for at least an acre of land to “protect” themselves from the neighbors. I heartily approve!
“Never fall in love with a house” (p. 1, Kindle edition).
This story sets itself up as a “cautionary tale.” Now, imagine yourself in Britain the very last days of the war and then the first days of the final peace–the one in Japan. You and your closest friends have endured it all in London and while huddling in the Anderson Shelter or the basement of the block of flats you’ve dreamed aloud of finding a nice home in the country with room for the baby to grow into boyhood running free along with the siblings that will surely follow him. And then, what if an ad in the paper announces your dream is suddenly within reach? You’d jump, of course! And, your dearest friends jump with you making it possible for everyone to afford the move.
Over the next 8 years the couple with the baby who are the primary tenants find out just why a manor house is built with the kitchens a mile from the dining room and the Lord of the Manor’s study in a separate wing from the day and night nursery: it was designed to be run and cared for by a troop of servants not represented at all in Parliament, let alone by a brand new socialist state dictating working hours and conditions! The plan for the manor takes a ding or two, but they keep, because a loyal retainer of the old school, more Conservative than the local Tory MP, helps them.
The Lady of Manor, our primary tenant, joyfully gave birth in the house, pushed the baby outside in his pram for his afternoon nap in the fresh air, “bottled” fruit from the estate, found replacements for the early friends, set her child up with an outdoor summer school, invited tourists in, and lived as happily as one could in a home meant for an army of servants, but finally there came that day when she knew it was time to move and she did.
As one who has twice thought she bought her “forever” home only to find out that wasn’t true, I enjoyed this story almost too much. One of those two houses was also a money pit, so the closing spoke right to my heart as I sat in my home of 13 years to which I have done nothing to personalize:
Never again will we fall in love with a house. From now on we mean to live in a series of impersonal flats, each one exactly like a hundred others in the block” (p. 195 Kindle edition).
This story is timeless. If you enjoyed Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, or laughed as Archie weaved his way down the hall among Tupperware containers, mixing bowls, pots and pans catching the rainwater leaking in at Glenbogle in the opening of Monarch of the Glen each week, then this is a book you will love.
A House in the Country by Ruth Adams