At 53, Constance Harding is embarking on a foray into the Internet world. Armed with a new laptop, she has created her own blog with the assistance of her son, Rupert. Beginning on January 1st and continuing through the last day of the year, readers are privy to Constance's innermost thoughts and outward experiences in Surrey, England, as she makes her way through 2008.
"A SURREY STATE OF AFFAIRS is a continuously amusing novel about a woman finding her way out of the restrictive constraints of society, family and friends, and learning to live in a way that is authentically suited to her personality."
Although she doesn't know it yet, 2008 is going to be a year of change. Up to this point, she has contented herself with her marriage to Jeffrey, a senior partner at a law firm, and her grown children: Rupert, an IT consultant, and Sophie, a student on her gap year before heading to university. The part of Constance's time that isn't taken up with her family is filled with her participation in the bell-ringing group at her local church and caring for her beloved parrot, Darcy.
While Constance's life and home may look picture perfect to outsiders, she, too, has her crosses to bear. The romance has disappeared from her marriage; Rupert refuses to marry and produce the requisite grandchildren that Constance so desperately desires; and Sophie, who always has had a wayward, unorthodox personality that the traditional Constance has never understood, continues to pursue her own interests. Add to that the need to hire a new gardener and her inability to manage her insolent Lithuanian housekeeper, and it's easy to see that Constance doesn't have it easy.
Over the year, Constance is able to communicate via her blog in a way that she's unable to do in person with any of the people in her life. What is particularly amusing is Constance's inability to recognize the obvious flaws in her family members, either through her willing blindness or perhaps due to a natural naiveté. Astute readers will realize long before Constance does the problems that are present in her life.
Many things in Constance’s life confound her. Why her maid's undergarments make frequent appearances in her husband's study, why her son won't settle down with a woman, and why her daughter must bring public attention to the family in a way that abhors her are all puzzles she'll solve during the course of this eventful year. When her present reality crashes around her, Constance attempts to pick up the pieces in faraway locales across South America. By the time the year is over, her life will be very different from the one she's previously embraced.
A SURREY STATE OF AFFAIRS is a continuously amusing novel about a woman finding her way out of the restrictive constraints of society, family and friends, and learning to live in a way that is authentically suited to her personality. Frequent laughs are a part of the reading experience as readers shake their heads and wonder if it's possible that anyone could be as clueless as Constance.
In spite of her inability to connect the dots, Constance is a heartwarming character who will charm readers into rooting for her to find the happiness she deserves and to begin attending to her own wants and needs instead of those of others. It's a novel that many women will relate to in an intensely personal way.
Reviewed by Amie Taylor on April 6, 2012
A Surrey State of Affairs