The Fortnight in September, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)




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The Stevens family takes a yearly fortnight holiday in the seaside town of Bognor. Mr Stevens is a clerk in Dulwich. Mrs Stevens is a friendless housewife. They have three children. Mary and Dick are young adults who both work and will soon be out on their own. Eric is still in school. During their holidays they always stay at "Seaview", a house which has seen better days, but which they continue to return to out of loyalty to the owner and family tradition. Even on holiday they stick to a strict schedule of activities and meals -- they plan their food down to the precise number of bottles of ginger beer or glasses of port. Nothing much happens in this book; the family goes swimming, to the arcade, to listen to the band and for walks on the beach. Mr Stevens, Mrs Stevens and Mary each have clandestine activities. The sense that this is the last time the Stevens will make this trip as a family, although unspoken, is the emotional thread that runs through the story. Recommended.

Review by

The Fortnight in September tells the story of the Stevens' family's annual summer holiday in Bognor Regis around 1930, probably the heyday of the traditional British seaside holiday. Mr and Mrs Stevens have been going to the same guesthouse in Bognor Regis for two weeks in September every year since their marriage, but what seems an unchanging ritual is on the brink of ending, as their two grown-up children talk of spending their holidays with friends. The Stevens are a very ordinary and quiet family, there are no dramas and very little happens, but the book is a satisfying read none the less. What R.C.Sherriff does beautifully is to capture to perfection the whole idea of a holiday:'The man on his holidays becomes the man he might have been, the man he could have been, had things worked out differently. All men are equal on their holidays: all are free to dream their castles without thought of expense, or skill of architect.'And what he also captured beautifully were the worries and disappointments lurking underneath the surface of even a seemingly idyllic holiday: Mr Stevens brooding on his disappointments at work; Mrs Stevens hiding the fact that she found the sea terrifying and would actually prefer to be at home; and Dick's unhappiness in the job that his father is so proud of having found for him. Only the youngest child, Ernie, is untouched by the worries of the adult world. And even the guesthouse in which they stay, 'Seaview', has grown old along with its landlady, so that not even the rose-tinted glasses with which it is viewed by the Stevens can hide its gradual decline into dilapidation.What is also lovely in this book is the period detail of the holidays of that era, something which particularly interests me having grown up in an old holiday resort myself. I was amazed that Mrs Stevens was expected to shop every day for the groceries that were cooked by their landlady. And I found even the little details of their journey fascinating. So overall a good read.

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