Red Chair Reads: One Fine Day

One Fine Day, by Mollie Panter-Downes (1946)

It is summer of 1946, and Laura and Stephen Marshall are trying to adjust to life in post-war England.  Their little village of Wealding seems the timeless, quintessential English village: the Manor House, the rectory, the High Street with the requisite independent shops, the winding country lanes, the picturesqueTudor cottages. The Marshalls — and the village — have survived the war, and now it is time to live the peace.

What is that peace?  Look closer and there are signs of upheaval everywhere: Laura’s house is falling down around her, the weeds are winning, and a sense of disquiet pervades her life.  She is prematurely grey, she stands in endless lines for her family’s rations, she sees rusting coils of barbed wire, she runs across the remaining German POW still working English farmland.  The owner of the Manor House has sold the crumbling pile for institutional use, and the future is personified by the ambitious and ethically challenged Mr. Rudge, and the good-natured by sly Mrs. Prout, a charwoman who knows her worth, who never says “madam,” and who understands her “place” is not where the “gentry” thinks it is.  So Laura continues her everyday day: she finds her wayward dog, climbs the chalk down and catches a glimpse of her future, and finally sees that her world has undergone a fundamental change that she may not have wanted, but that she can in fact embrace.

Nothing much happens in One Fine Day —  nothing, except one woman finding reasons for hope and optimism.

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