‘Wilfred and Eileen’ by Jonathan Smith
One word for this book: delightful.
I wasn’t inspired by any of the books in the pile under my bedside table and so I contacted Persephone Books to explain my predicament and the challenge I set myself and they confirmed they indeed had published a few books from the period 1970 to 2018. Not many, but you can actually search their books by publishing year on their website so it was not a brainer.
I LOVE Persephone books. They are especially bound so they lie flat, which is genius… no more cracked spine! they lie flat on your legs so you can drink a lovely cup of coffee without the need of holding the book down… AND not only that… but they’re so gorgeous! Smooth, pale covers and with the most amazing end papers… I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted but it really is a total pleasure to read them.
The end paper of this one are the image of a furnishing fabric designed in 1913 by Vanessa Bell. Wouldn’t it make a fabulous dress?
… and the matching bookmark… such a fabulous touch…
Anyway, back to the delightful, enjoyable, well paced story… as it happens… it really happened: it’s a true story which, you’ll agree, makes it even more special. The author was an English teacher at the time when one of his students took him aside and told him the story of his grandparents during the 1st WW… one thing lead to another, he got in touch with the rest of the family and ended up writing the story of Wilfred and Eileen. The two main protagonist had met in Cambridge just before the war and fell in love and… well I won’t spoil it for you because I think you should absolutely read it…
It is a ‘war book’ but not as you know it. It’s not about battles (only indirectly), it’s not about the blitz…. but it is about society during the war,, the pressure of joining, a little about the suffragette movement, different classes… in fact it’s a perfect snapshot of how life was at the time. It offered me an angle and a window into a world I really didn’t know much about at all. Wilfred was training to become a doctor and there’s a lot about medicine and hospital at the time (not the gory stuff) that is really quite interesting.
And it’s a lovely love story… and who doesn’t like that!
It was also made into a four part TV series in the 80s… but before my time in England so I don’t know anything about it… anybody remembers it?
2018 Mr Hanckock and the mermaid
2017 – Magari domain resto (Lorenzo Maroni)
2016 – Upstream (Mary Oliver)
2014 – Annihilation (Jeff VanderMeer)
2013 – Careless people (Sarah Churchwell)
2012 – Wonder
2011 – The Paris Wife (Paula McLain)
2009 – Let the great world spin (Colum McCann)
2008 – The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga)
2007 –Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver)
2005 – Never let me go (Kazuo Ishiguro)
2002 – Everything is illuminated (Jonathan Safran Foer)
2001 – American Gods (Nail Gainman)
2000 – Coram Boy (Jamila Gavin)
1997 – Paradise (Toni Morrison)
1996 – Wilfred and Eileen (Jonathan Smith)
1991- Regeneration (Pat Barker)
1989 –The Joy luck club (Amy Tan)
1987 – Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami)
1981 – The colour purple (Alice Walker)
1979– Sophie’s Choice (William Styron)