I spent most of my time reading One Woman’s Year feeling deeply envious of Currey’s life. This in itself is something of an admission, given that most of the chapters concern the home and looking after the family; it is only a few years ago that I was feeling deeply ambitious and determined to further my career. Now I’m finding I want to be that woman who knows which flowers are which, and how to make a dish of eggs and shrimps (ok, maybe not that one). Arranged in monthly sections, Currey’s life sounds just so damned comfortable that I can’t help but wish I too could spend time rethinking the colours in my living room, and wondering how best to prepare the ‘Out-of-Doors Supper’.
Currey is a wonderful writer, one who is happy to laugh gently at herself but who is also able to dish out advice with a marvellous post-war firmness. Recipes are practical and unfussy – Sea Pie contains eggs, milk, cooked ham or sausages, tomatoes and onions. References to the family’s war-time experiences crop up occasionally and it’s clear that life is to be appreciated, even the ‘Most Disliked Job’ of each month. She talks directly to her reader with a warmly self-assured manner, which verges on the tone adopted by self-help tomes:
‘If a child does not learn nursery rhymes from his mother or nurse he never learns them, and misses the first step in the appreciation of rhythm and a liking for poetry. Get your small child to like poetry and you’ve begun shaping his taste in the best way.’
She’s like that slightly older friend who sees it as her job to steer you gently through life so that you don’t mess it up. And she does it in a way that you enjoy. I also liked her chosen Anthology extracts for each month. It’s clear that this is a writer who loves hanging texts together (there’s also sage advice on how to hang pictures around the home), presumably to send her reader off to read her selections in full.
It is a middle-class voice very much of its time (the book was first published in 1953) and I loved it. This is another Persephone book I’m going to keep going back to, to dip into on a Sunday evening as a comfort read. I also need to up my game when it comes to picnics.