‘A Love Match’ by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Chosen by Stuart Heath
 
While on leave in London, having survived the horrors of the Battle of the Somme, Justin finds solace in the arms of Celia, a young widow. Justin and Celia, however, are brother and sister. Living in a society that would be shocked by their love for each other, the couple go on to establish an outwardly conventional life together in a Northern English town. Included by Sylvia Townsend Warner in her 1966 collection A Stranger with a Bag (published in the US under the title Swans on an Autumn River), ‘A Love Match’ is a tale that permitted its author to comment indirectly on her own position as a lesbian in a long-term relationship in mid-20th Century England. Her prose here is, as nearly always, sharp & precise, yielding ample evidence of her wit and intelligence. Straightforwardly happy endings are as hard to come by in Warner’s fiction as they are in life, but this story of lovers never parted, and of a secret kept safe, comes closer to having one than most.

First published in A Stranger With a Bag and Other Stories, Chatto & Windus, 1966. Available to read online here, with a short introduction by Edith Pearlman
 
Stuart Heath is a middle-aged IT Consultant based in South Wales with no literary ambitions.

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