Wendy Trevor and Edith Wilson on duty at the Red Cross post as usual, it is the very last day of World War II. They are sharing intimacies of their life’s that they would never dreamed of sharing together before the war. As Wendy Trevor lives at the top of the hill and is considered middle class and Edith Wilson lives at the bottom of the hill and is considered working class.
“There’s a lot of us will miss it, ” Edith said “We’re all of us felt at times, you know, how nice it was, like you and me being able to be together and friendly, just as if we were the same sort, if you know what I mean.”
They talk about their families, Wendy has two children Sheila and Margaret, Edith has three children, Edie, Maureen and Roy. They confide that they both lost a child in death, Wendy when her and the Major farmed for a while in Kenya and lost a little boy and Edith confides that she had a little girl who died. They have become very close.
The Trevor’s returned from Kenya before they lost all their money and bought an old house with a small holding chicken farm, their income is about six pounds per week. Edith confides that when her Roy comes back from the war he will pick up his old job as a printer, his apprenticeship having been finished and he will make ten pounds per week. Edith used to be Wendy’s day lady, cleaning and cooking for her, but since they had to use all her income on the private schooling of their girls, there is just no money for a daily. The Major is a disaster at business, being born in the era when landed gentry did not have to work and their private incomes where never going to end, but of course all this changed.
“Then they parted, Mrs Trevor going up the road to Wood View on Priory Hill where the gentry lived and Mrs Wilson going downhill on the other side, down Station Road among the working class.”
Wendy dispares of her eldest daughter.
“She looked at Margaret … her soft brown hair caught back with a slide from her sweet but oh, so uninteresting face. … thoughts of contrast between the life she had once known and the one she was living now.”
If her sister had lived and not died in the car accident, it might have been different as she had married money, her girls now had no hope of coming out in London and being presented at the Court Debutante Ball.
Gerald Wendy’s husband and ex-Major says to Daisy a neighbour and friend.
“You look as enchanting as ever,” said Gerald, falling happily into the roll of gallant young officer with an eye for the ladies.”
There is to be a village dance to celebrate the end of the war all will be there. Margaret does not want to go she thinks.
“There was something wrong with herself, that made Roger Gregory, the only young man of her own sort in the village, dance with her only as a duty and escape as quickly as he could.”
She returns to help in the kitchens and comes out, standing along the side of the Village Hall, a young man comes over and asks her to dance, she remembers him, from her child hood days as being Ron Wilson, who she used to play with, while his mother Edith was working at their house.
“Somebody nearly bumped into them, but he tightened his grip on her waist and drew her deftly away from the impending collision. she looked up at him and thought, in a confused kind of way, that he looked as if he’d always be able to manage things, grinning away with that cheerful confident way he had, as if he was still someone people could be all right in trusting.”
Ron and Margaret win the Spot Dance and now all eyes are on them.
“Good-bye Roy.” … “That young man’s getting a bit too big for his boots. A pity, because his mother’s such a decent woman.”
“What can Margaret be trained for?”
She is not at all academic like her younger sister and certainly will not win a scholarship which is so badly needed in the Trevor family as there is no money for further education without it.
“Margaret saw herself being married.”
Margaret ends up with a mind boring job at the Hospital which their friend the Doctor suggested.
“… the only thing they’ve got to hang on to is that they belong to the so called upper class, and even that doesn’t cut the ice it used to any more.”
One day Margaret makes arrangements to meet her old school friend Jill Morton at the pictures, but she doesn’t turn up and there is Roy Wilson waiting for someone who also does not turn up, they decide to make the most of being there and see the film together, with a bite to eat afterwards, thus begins their budding romance.
“I’d like to very much,” she said, Roy’s whole face wrinkled with sudden pleasure.”
Margaret’s mum Wendy becomes quite ill from nervous exhaustion and Margaret stays at home to look after her. She does not mind because unlike her mum she very much enjoys looking after the house and cooking. Mrs Wilson comes up to offer her services and it is agreed that she will do the laundry while Mrs Trevor is ill.
“Maureen … nudged Margaret in the ribs and said “The trouble with you, Miss Margaret, is that you’ve got no sense of class.”
There are many other characters in The Village that enforce the class differences of the time. It is a truly delightful read and catches that era so well.
I rate this a ***** Five Star on my Persephone 100 rating.