It was first published in 1919, just after the end of WWI, and what the war time effort was like for people at home features rather prominently in the book. Before the actual story begins (which is, actually, not much of a story at all), the reader is warned:
This is not a real book. It does not deal with real people, nor should it be read by real people. But there are in the world so many real books already written for the benefit of real people, and there are still so many to be written, that I cannot believe that a little alien book such as this, written for the magically-inclined minority, can be considered too assertive a trespasser.Well, it was read by me, and even if I say so myself, I think I am quite real. So, should I not have read it? I am not part of a "magically-inclined minority" (in spite of my love of the Narnia books since I first read them as a little girl, and of the Harry Potter books), but I do like the witty bits where magic in this book is described in such ordinary words that you can not help but think J. K. Rowling maybe knew "Living Alone" and was - consciously or not - just a tiny bit influenced by it.
People and places are described in a manner to give the cinema of your inner eye a good show. Conversations are often like those of real people - not really talking and listening to each other, but holding separate conversations (or, rather, monologues) each. There are many ideas about magic and reality, about Good v. Evil, about death and love and war and work, and I can't get rid of the suspicion that this is, actually, a highly political book.
If Stella Benson was alive, I'd like to ask her about it. But she died in 1933 (which means she never knew of WWII) at 41 of pneumonia. The wikipedia entry about her calls her "an English feminist, novelist, poet, and travel writer" and this book "a fantasy novel about a woman whose life is transformed by a witch".
Of course, you can put it as bluntly as that, but this brief statement alone doesn't do the book justice. I was torn between liking and not liking it, because it was weirder than any of the weird books I have been reading over the past two or three years. It is not a very long book, so if you would like to find out for yourselves, go and give it a try.