Having been a big fan of The provincial lady books, which I wrote about earlier this year, and committed a huge indiscretion over, I have long been keen to read some more of her work, so when I spotted The way things are on a friend's bookshelves recently, I couldn't leave her flat until she had let me borrow it!
One of the things I love about the VMC series is that they encompass such a wide range of material - we have dark stories, we have period romance, we have gritty working class books, and we have humorous books such as the Provincial Lady books. In some ways, this book is entertaining, due to the tongue in cheek humour used to describe domestic life, but it is overlaid by a strong message.
The book starts out by describing the life of the main character Laura and her domestic circumstances; like the Provincial Lady she deals with an endless procession of servants, children who are ill, a husband who she loves but isn't hugely in love with anymore (if she ever was), and trying to pursue her writing. The big question is "surely there is more to life than this".
Into Laura's life comes Duke Ayland, and she falls properly in love for the first time. It's a bit like Brief Encounter - the housewife who is taken out of her humdrum existence and comes to realise how trapped she has been. Sadly Laura, like Laura in Brief Encounter, has to make a choice and it is not easy.
"The children, her marriage vows, the house, the ordering of the meals, the servants, the making of a laundry list every Monday - in a word, the things of respectability, kept one respectable. In a flash of unavoidable clear-sightedness, that Laura would never repeat if she could avoid it, she admitted to herself that the average attributes, only, of the average women were hers...But how difficult, Laura reflected, to see oneself as an average woman and not,as one entirely unique, in unique circumstances...It dawned upon her dimly that only by envisaging her accepting her own limitations, could she endure the limitations of her surroundings."
I really enjoyed reading this and am very keen both to get my own copy of this and to read the other EMD published: Thank Heaven Fasting which sounds intriguing. It's only been published once by Virago with an original green cover. 4*