What Do I Read Next?
Coming Home (1995), by Rosamunde Pilcher, tells the story of fourteen-year-old Judith Dunbar, who stays in England at Saint Ursula’s boarding school when her mother and younger sister leave to join her father in Singapore. She and a friend grow up under the looming threat of World War II, which will eventually change their lives and the lives of those they love most.
Muriel Spark’s novel The Girls of Slender Means (1963), tells the World War II story of a boarding house founded for “the Pecuniary Convenience and Social Protection of Ladies of Slender Means below the Age of Thirty Years.” The boarding house’s residents go to their jobs, dream of marriage, gossip, and maintain a facade that life and the world are still normal despite the war.
Radclyffe Hall’s novel The Well of Loneliness (1928) tells the story of Stephen Mary Gordon. Given a male name by her father, who had desperately wanted a son, young Stephen learns to hunt and shoot and ride horses. She develops an intimate but disastrous relationship with another woman that challenges an English society that values and reinforces conformity and acceptability. Overwhelmed by grief and loneliness, she seeks escape in her work as a writer and as a World War I ambulance driver.
The Last September (1929), by Elizabeth Bowen, set in 1920, is the story of Lois Farquar, who lives with her uncle and aunt, members of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy in County Cork, in a “big house” modeled on Bowen’s own family estate in Ireland. The demise of British rule in Ireland is just around the corner, and the family attempts to deal with the end of an era.
Elizabeth Bowen’s Bowen’s Court (1942) is a nonfiction history of the ancestral house where she spent her summers as a child, and which she inherited after her father died.