A Lady and Her Husband
Amber Reeves (Mrs Blanco White since 1909) had been one of the young women visiting the working-class families in Lambeth when her mother Maud Pember Reeves was writing 'Round about a Pound a Week' PB No.79. It is thus unsurprising that her novel focuses on the social issues that had been preoccupying her mother. However, it is also a novel about marriage (hence its title): in a deeply sophisticated way it describes a middle-aged couple who love each other navigating round the rock of their differences.
The plot is straightforward but unusual. Mrs Heyham’s daughter leaves home to get married and suddenly she is left with no family and nothing to do (the servants ensure that she does no work in the house, for it would be another 25 years before middle-class women realised they could run your home without help. The daughter, who is young and modern in outlook, suggests that her mother takes more interest in the family business. As Ford Madox Ford (author of Parade’s End and The Good Soldier) wrote in his review of this ‘very clever and very observant book’ in March 1914: ‘It shows us the household of a great employer of labour, a constructive genius in the realms of tea shops. He is honest, buoyant, persevering, unbeatable, and he gives the public excellent poached eggs, unrivalled cups of tea, pure butter, and wholesome bread.
A Lady and Her Husband is extremely readable with a moving and insightful portrait of a marriage at the heart of it. Nor is the insight surprising, coming from ‘a girl of brilliant and precocious promise’ by HG Wells (his real words this time). Famously, he wrote about her in 1909 as the eponymous Ann Veronica in which he portrayed a 21-year-old bluestocking who studies biology, gets swept up in politics, but then at the end marries her older teacher, telling him; ‘“I say, you are rather the master, you know.”’
Taken from "Cracow', a jacquard woven wool and linen by Roger Fry for the Omega Workshop 1913 © V and A Images
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