House-Bound by Winifred Peck

House-Bound was first published in 1942 but it has been reprinted by Persephone.

It’s that World War 2 setting again, but this one is also set in Edinburgh which Winifred Peck decided to rename Castleburgh for some reason. It begins at a registry office for servants, but there are no servants to be found as they’ve all given up domestic drudgery in favour of earning more money, independence and ‘doing their bit’ for the war effort, and who could blame them!

The middle class ladies of Edinburgh blame them, that’s for sure, but when Mrs Fairlaw (Rose) is told that millions of women do their own housework she decides that that is just what she will do. Rose has been born into quite a grand family and married Stuart Fairlaw who had inherited the family pile, Laws House, originally an ancient tower house but much enlarged over the years and very inconvenient and difficult to keep clean.

Rose is completely clueless about housework and cooking and even wonders if you have to use soap to clean the potatoes! Stuart can see that his wife is exhausted by all her domestic duties but as a man it never occurs to him to lend a hand, and Rose doesn’t expect him to. Their children are grown up and off in various military services.

This book is funny in parts but also sad too as the war takes a toll on family members. Rose is a strange mother/step mother with obvious favouritism towards one child and this has had an unfortunate effect on the rest of the family.

Eventually a Mrs Childe comes to help Rose with the housework a few hours each day and she attempts to teach Rose the mysteries of domesticity, there’s so much of it going on that I felt quite exhausted. Did you know that you are supposed to clean your cornicing regularly, I didn’t – and don’t!

It’s an enjoyable read and Rose is a really likeable character, there’s also some input from the US army in the shape of Major Hosmer, who tries to help Rose with her problems. One thing which did amuse me was the constant references to Rose and her friend Linda as being old and basically past it, so it’s a bit of a shock to realise that they’re only in their early 50s.

I do believe myself that the 50s is the new 30s!!

8 thoughts on “House-Bound by Winifred Peck

  1. Oh how I wish I didn’t have to do my own housework! I do like reading about it, though, especially about how it was done 50-100 years ago. I suppose it makes me feel better about my pathetic efforts.
    I’m reminded by your post that I’ve only read 1 Persephone novel this year – I need to get to another one soon.

    • Anbolyn,
      I despise housework but it just has to be done and I know that even if I won the lottery I wouldn’t want to pay someone else to do it for me, I’d hate a stranger poking around in my home. Of course my mother solved the problem by having daughters to do her housework for her!!

  2. I’ve seen this one mentioned before, and I keep meaning to look for it. Both the Edinburgh and the war-time settings are appealing!

  3. I have this unread — I belong to a Persephone reading group through Goodreads and this is a possible read this winter. If I can wait that long!

    • Karen K,
      I think you’ll enjoy it when you do get around to it. I didn’t realise that there was a Persephone reading group on Goodreads, I should join it, and we should be friends on Goodreads too!

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