………. This is a humorous and slightly sad tale ( though only slightly) of Lorna who has grown up in a world of fastidious pride in cleanliness. The parental sense of being ‘house proud!” to the nth degree, is a mantle passed to Lorna from her parents and it’s one she picks up and maintains with relish. We first meet her as a seventeen year-old telling us that she was better off attending the local Secondary Modern than the Grammar school because it was newer and lot less dusty!
If being house proud and obsessive about cleanliness in the home is a talent then Laura’s got in abundance. Even when Lorna’s horizons are extended by being taken under her wing by the doctor and his wife, rather than open her mind, it narrows it further to the point where it looks all too apparent that Lorna is destined to live her life as her mother has before her The measurement of success and happiness will be through the newness of her furniture, the frequency with which she wallpapers and the victory of gleam over dust forever more!
It’s a wonderful poke at the inverted snobbery that exists in the most unlikely of places. There’s a comical, almost cute innocence in the degree to which Lorna judges everything against the standards of her mothers housework! This inverted snobbery and ignorance is shown when Lorna accompanies the doctor and his wife on a visit to his mother.
“ When we arrived at Jim’s mother’s place, Jim said ‘Its a fourteenth century cottage Lorna’. I could well believe it!
It was very cracked and old and made one wonder how Jim could let his mother live in a tumbledown cottage, as he was so good to everyone else. So Mavis knocked at the door And the old lady came. There was not much anyone could do with the inside. Mavis said, ‘Isn’t it charming Lorna?’ If that was a joke, it was going too far. I said to the old Mrs Darby ‘Are you going to be re-housed?’ but she did not understand this and I explained that you have to apply to the Council and keep at them.
The story is full of these witty sharp observations. Muriel Spark has perfectly captured that perverse narrow-mindedness of some whose oneupmanship response to those with more money is a sort of ‘Yes. But our house is much cleaner than yours!’
I found this funny and sad and personally, slightly eerie – Lorna’s housework obsession reminded me of my mother!!!!! But even if your mother is like mine and verging on a formal declaration of the sanctity and superiority of housework, read this anyway – it’ll only take 15 minutes and you’ll love it!