This is the second time I've read 'One Fine Day' and the second time I've been underwhelmed by it which disappoints me because I want to love it. It's a book that seems to be universally admired by my reading peers, compared favourably to Virginia Woolf's 'Mrs Dalloway', it even makes Simon's list of 50 Books You Must Read But May Not Have Heard About, all of which makes me feel like I've failed where others have succeeded.
The book follows a day in the life of the Marshall family, mostly from the point of view of Laura Marshall. It's 1946, her husband (Stephen) has returned safe from the war to find that they may be losing the peace. War has aged Laura beyond her 38 years, and turned their daughter, Victoria, from a scrubbed infant in her blue dressing gown with a rabbit on the pocket, into a scruffy and distant adolescent. The staff that made the Marshall's house so pleasant a place to be are all dead and gone, keeping it up is a war of attrition that neither Laura or Stephen are quite up to but nether the less they continue to try.
Truthfully I prefer books that are rather more plot driven than this one though. The writing is beautiful and should another opportunity present itself I might try and read it through in one sitting; I find with books like this that I enjoy them whilst I'm reading but the moment I put it down it becomes an effort to pick up again without that imperative need to find out what happens next regardless of the quality of the prose. I'm also ambivalent about Laura - she is a hopelessly vague dreamer; she leaves the larder door open so that the cat steals the fish, her cakes sink or burn, her milk pans boil over, and she's responsible or the most appalling phone bills. It's meant to be endearing, admirable even, but I find it frustrating that after so many years of war she hasn't adapted a little more.
I empathise with the feeling of being imprisoned by a convention which insists one eats in some state in a dining room, and which won't allow Laura and Stephen to settle comfortably in the Kitchen for their supper, but am impatient with a woman who's a fool about money because it's considered non - U for women of her class to understand it. Otherwise the meditation on what absence does to a marriage is both subtle and moving, as is the relationship between Victoria and her parents. She's growing up at home in the world she finds around her and relatively free of the social nuances that mean so much to the older generation - her generation will indeed win the peace.
It's an interesting book, and I will say again - beautifully written, very many readers whose taste and opinions I trust adore it, and it may be in a different mood and place I'll adore it too but for now I'm just not sure.