Death Makes No Distinction by Lucienne Boyce – an historical detection novel with an engaging hero


Dan Foster is a senior Bow Street Runner, one of the first policemen in London. This is the third book in the series of Mysteries, but it can certainly be appreciated as a standalone book, which is how I read it. Prince George is an actual character in this book, as is Foster’s family.  Set in Georgian times, in this book London is a place of shadowy corners, rich and poor, thieves, cutthroats and others trying to scratch a living. It is in this part of the city that the first body is found, unnamed and apparently unmourned. Another body is found in the exact opposite situation; the murdered Louise Parmeter, an old favourite of the Prince and now a beautiful woman of independence and many talents. For better or worse, Dan becomes involved in both investigations, the second at the instigation of John Townshend, royal bodyguard, for initially mysterious reasons.  As the situations Dan finds himself becoming more embroiled in get more complex, he must decide where his priorities lie. I found this a fascinating and interesting portrayal of a man endeavouring to do his best, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.


The range of characters that Dan encounters in his work is huge, and reflect the immense research that has evidently gone into this book. He encounters the poorest people who have few options, despite their youth. Women who must make their living on the streets, children who must steal to survive, men who fight for the survival of themselves and others. There are those who have more advantages, but who choose dissolute lives. Louise Parmeter obviously has her secrets as she can choose who she supports and the way she spends her notable wealth, and her beauty and talents have attracted many men. The violence of her death appals her loyal staff, and raises many possibilities in Dan’s mind, but it seems that he has been called in to assist with the case for other reasons. As elements of Dan’s background story emerge they serve to explain some of his skills and motivations. His son Alex is much loved but also a reason for contention with his wife Caroline, and his family relationships are evidently complex. His own background has equipped him with many skills and an awareness of how the underworld of London works, but even then his survival is not straightforward.


This is such a well researched book that the setting of both the richest and poorest in society is made vibrant and alive. The language used is both revealing of the time and completely within character whether spoken by a rich lord or a poor man scraping a living by dubious means. There is at the heart of the novel a sufficiently complex crime or two to engage the most sophisticated detection fans. I found the character of Dan really attractive, as he thinks through his motivations and reactions.He is skilled and able, but knows that he makes mistakes and is also not always the most popular with his superiors. As a fan of historical crime novels I would say that this is certainly a very good example of a skillfully constructed and well  researched book. Dan is a very engaging character and I would be very interested to read the other books in which he features. I recommend this book as a thoroughly engaging historical novel with many elements to enjoy.   

Mine by Emily Merrill – a contemporary novel of choices, relationships and even danger for women

Image result for mine emily merrillImage result for mine emily merrill


Avery thinks that she is in love. At least her first boyfriend, Luke, has been on the scene for four years, and knows that he has been at her side through many trials and tribulations with her family. Avery is an attractive, lively student of English at York University where she has made several good friends. She works hard, keeps in touch with her younger sister Stella and father and loves to write fiction. She seems to be on course for a happy life, but this novel reveals the truth behind one of her relationships. Not as a sudden revelation, but as a painful realisation that all is not well.


This is a book which deals with domestic violence in a gradual way. It looks at with it sensitivity, making the point that it is not always possible for other people to see what is happening outside the relationship. It also conveys the fact that there is no limitations to those it can affect; Avery is twenty, with no children, relatively affluent and well educated, resourceful and with family support. Having said that, this is a not a book of preaching or anecdotes, designed to change the world. It is a well written novel, with lively and often funny dialogue, characters that feel realistic, and a setting which is understandable and easy to relate to. Overall I found this an engaging, fascinating and challenging book which I was glad to read in virtually one sitting, and am pleased I have the opportunity to review it. 


The narrative of this novel opens with two events. Luke moves to York to work his father’s accountants’ firm, also to be near Avery. Avery enjoys writing fiction while studying, and has discovered a quiet coffee shop which has friendly staff, good hot chocolate and most importantly, a good atmosphere in which to write. She enters the shop one day only to discover a young man working on his own novel sitting in her seat. She is excited when he introduces himself as Beckett, successful author and willing to encourage Avery with her writing. She begins to find out that he studied the same course as she is on, and that he represents a possible alternative career. Meanwhile she tries to see something of her friends, all strong and interesting characters, especially Eliza, who are also studying and greatly enjoy each others’ company. Avery also feels very responsible for her younger sister and father, following her mother’s departure from the family home several years before. Avery is a young woman who has much going on for her, but as Luke begins to criticise her choices, alarms begin to sound.


In a way this is a powerful book with much to say about the choices young women face with the example of older women in front of them. It also has much to say about jealousy and control, attraction, love and loyalty. It is essentially a novel with a somewhat disturbing theme, but also a lot to say about life and love in the twenty first century. It deals with an abusive relationship thoughtfully and accordingly has an unusual depth and important message for all of its readers.   

Blood’s Campaign by Angus Donald – The Irish wars of 1689, on a personal level

Blood’s Campaign by Angus Donald


A riveting historical novel set in Ireland, 1689. Captain Holcroft Blood is forced to take charge of the big guns in the siege of Carrickfegus. As this is the third book in a series, his character is well established, but as I read this book as a standalone I can confirm it works as an independent novel. Based on an actual person, this character is strangely complex and brilliantly described by this skilful author. As historical military books go, this has great depth of characterisation and the battles, skirmishes and other military action  are so well described as to be understandable and full of suspense. There are quite brutal episodes as is the nature of war, but the violence is never gratuitous and always fascinating.


 There are two other men who stride through this novel; Henri d’Erloncourt, Frenchman and agent for King Louis XIV, also known as Narrey, and Michael Hogan, borderline outlaw and unorthodox warrior. As the three men collide, seek each other and endure their relationships, the main battles between the forces of kings dominate the action for better or worse, and the reader gets to see both sides of the conflict. As two women have an influence on what Holcroft thinks, this is a surprisingly well balanced and always interesting book, which I read with great involvement and enjoyment. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.


The book opens with Holcroft writing to his wife Elizabeth, left in London for quite a time as he commands the gunners in Ireland, totally committed to the ritual of preparing and firing the huge guns that can change the course of battle or in this case, siege. He finds a particular reason to fire at an exposed point in the town they are surrounding, as he spots the unscrupulous Narrey, who is directly responsible for the deaths of several of Holcroft’s friends. He is so determined to try and wipe out the agent and his associate that he goes against orders, and is reassigned as a result. Narrey meanwhile is still plotting to promote French interests at all costs, as well as pursuing his own agenda. Hogan is a wonderfully described man on the edge of wildness, motivated by a varying set of reasons, with some doubt as to the best course.


This book was a bit of a revelation to me as someone who has never really read widely in historical military fiction, with some notable exceptions. I found this a genuinely brilliant read, with the main character of Holcroft being truly engaging  in his determination to survive and track down Narrey. Narrey is a tough opponent who is devious and deceptive, and is consistent in his partiality to his own interests. I really enjoyed the small points of character, as Holcroft is attached to his officer’s blue coat which he welcomes back as “a beautiful, warm, homecoming feeling, like a mother’s embrace”. Donald’s skill is in matching the big events with the small details which give the characters real depth. I got a little confused at times as the characters were sometimes referred to by different names, and the variety of mercenaries involved in the battles sometimes made me think hard about which side was which. Overall this is a very skilfully written book which fully engaged my interest throughout, and I recommend it to all fans of historical fiction.    

Angus Donald

Published by Zaffre
28th November 2019, Hardback and eBook, £20.00



August 25, 1689

The English Army is besieging Carrickfergus in Ireland. Brilliant but unusual gunner Holcroft Blood of the Royal Train of Artillery (son of Col. Thomas Blood), is ready to unleash his cannons on the rebellious forces of deposed Catholic monarch James II. But this is more than war for Captain Blood, a lust for private vengeance burns within him.

French intelligence agent Henri d’Erloncourt has come across the seas to foment rebellion against William of Orange, the newly installed Dutch ruler of England, Scotland and Ireland. But Henri’s true mission is not to aid the suffering of the Irish but to serve the interests of his master, Louis le Grand.

Michael ‘Galloping’ Hogan, brigand, boozer and despoiler of Protestant farms, strives to defend his native land – and make a little profit on the side. But when he takes the Frenchman’s gold, he suspects deep in his freedom-loving heart, that he has merely swapped one foreign overlord for another.

July 1, 1690

On the banks of the River Boyne, on a fateful, scorching hot day, two armies clash in bloody battle – Protestant against Catholic – in an epic struggle for mastery of Ireland. And, when the slaughter is over and the smoke finally clears, for these three men, nothing will ever be the same again . . .

Holcroft must decide whether to join the conspirators, including his old friend Jack Churchill, now Lord Marlborough, and support Dutch William’s invasion – or remain loyal to his unpopular king.


For more information and interview requests please contact Clare Kelly, Senior PR Manager | 07702 917 639

Kentbased author Angus Donald was born in 1965 and educated at Marlborough College and Edinburgh University. He has worked as a fruit-picker in Greece, a waiter in New York and as an anthropologist studying magic and witchcraft in Indonesia. For 20 years he worked as a journalist in Hong Kong, India, Afghanistan and London. He is now married with children and writes full time from a medieval farmhouse in Tonbridge, Kent.

Angus is a distant relative of Col. Thomas Blood who is best known for his attempt to steal the Crown Jewels of England from the Tower of London in 1671.

Angus is also the author of the bestselling Outlaw Chronicles. For more information, visit:      #BloodsCampaign

Children of Fire by Paul C.W. Beatty – a well written historical novel with a large element of crime


The earliest police force in the person of Josiah Ainscough had many challenges. This particular police officer finds himself in the rural setting of the North West of England in the early days of Victoria’s reign. Industries such as the manufacture of gunpowder for mining and quarrying is still developing.  The religious life of the country is unsettled, and Josiah has been brought up as the adopted son of a Methodist minister and his wife. His background of a solid education and his journey across Europe have not, despite expectations, prepared him for the ministry; instead he has joined a police force which is still trying to find acceptance by society. He also carries a burden of guilt from his travels, but has retained some good and useful friends from his childhood. His first job is unofficial, yet it will soon become a dangerous situation as he is called on to use all his skills, ingenuity and strength to deal with convoluted events. His beliefs and emotions are also challenged as two women, Rachael and Aideen, come to represent two ways of life. I found this a gripping story with many intriguing elements and a great depth of historical research. The characters are memorable and well drawn, and the setting beautifully realised. I really enjoyed reading this book, and am grateful to have the opportunity to review it. 


The book opens in February 1841, as an unknown figure observes and narrates an explosion at a mill, which that individual was obviously was responsible for detonating. In June Josiah appears, making a less than impressive showing as a police officer. Fortunately he is sent to an investigation of a wealthy landowner’s son in a nearby area. He is specifically asked to go to a Christian community called “Children of Fire”, where he meets a young woman called Rachael and encounters the impressive Elijah who runs the community. When a tragedy occurs and Josiah resolves to track down those responsible, he is also invited to a dinner party where he meets some strong personalities, including the combative Mr. Arlon, and the enthralling Aideen. He at last meets the young man he was sent to assess, Abram, and begins his investigations at the powder mill. It transpires that the making of gunpowder is a complex procedure, but that innovations have transformed the applications so that blasting in quarries and mines can be more controlled. Danger seems to go with Josiah’s investigations, and those around him become involved in seeking the truth.


This is a well written book with plenty of action and events. The character of Josiah is really engaging, with a solid basis of reality and always interesting. He comes from a stable background and has some useful life experience. He is resourceful and determined, with moral concerns but also realistic feelings for both Rachael and Aileen. His guilt over a past relationship affects his life, but does not limit it. The other characters are well drawn, even the minor ones. It is possible to visualise the setting and the countryside around the action of the novel easily. There are minor proofreading issues, but this does not detract from the overall very good writing, plot and characterisation. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a crime element and strong women who change lives.   

The Last Village by Audla English – Two stories of life in North East England

A searing elegy for a place, a romance and a way of life in one very neat package, “The Last Village” is a novel which draws parallels with a contemporary love affair. Set in the lovely area surrounding Souter lighthouse in the North East of England, and the bright lights of Newcastle, this is the story of Anna discovering her grandmother’s story. Full of engaging details of the locality, this is the story of life changing love amid friendships that overlap. A book of the social history of a village and a childhood friendship that begins on the first day of school in 1933, this is a book which ranges over some decades, full of the excitement of first love. A positive tale of a community of miners and those connected with the work of lighthouse in the middle of the twentieth century, this is the story of a young woman in a gentle setting with some life changing dramatic aspects. The contemporary story is a contrast with more of the choices open to women in today’s world, but also the priorities they can choose. I found this an engaging read with some lovely descriptions of the village which surrounded a lighthouse. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this lovely novel. 


Anna is a lawyer in Newcastle as the book opens in 2017. She has fond memories of her childhood visits to her grandmother’s cottage where she sometimes spent the night in a special bedroom. More importantly she loves hearing her grandmother’s stories of her past life. Anna has a good friend, Nora, who has been part of her life for many years. It is when Nora becomes engaged to Tim that Anna’s thoughts go romance, and she asks her grandmother, Lily, for details of her life.  Lily tells her of how she grew up in Marsden, in a terraced house overlooked by the lighthouse. How she met her best friends Nell and Harry on the first day of school, and how they grew together enjoying exploring the village and beach all within the area around the village. A special place is the Beach Grotto pub, on the beach at the bottom of two hundred steps. There is also a cave which they find and use as their own, putting their own blankets and supplies in there. The Second World War comes and leaves life in the village largely unchanged. When Nell and Harry become close, Lily discovers her own love, and all seems wonderful.


Meanwhile Anna finds discovers a different side to her friend Nora, and that makes her wonder about the choices that she makes. I found this an easy read with much to recommend it as a story about love and priorities in different periods. It presents a much more cheerful picture of life in the north east of England than is often the case, though it also includes danger and drama. It is a well balanced novel, with two clearly defined time zones. There is real suspense here, and some element of tragedy. A good read which I enjoyed greatly.

The Poker Game Mystery by Peter Bartram – Colin Crampton reports for the Chronicle again!


Crampton of the Chronicle is back! The crime reporter of the Chronicle, a local paper in Brighton, Colin Crampton has some developed some fairly cynical attitudes over the years. Happily he has also acquired some fairly nifty skills of a dubious nature to get him in and out of buildings and sticky situations. Not to mention the lovely, fast thinking and extremely resourceful Shirley, his girlfriend. When murder, past dangers and future crimes are all at risk, Colin must rack his brains to solve three problems, all in double quick time. In a story which vibrates with comedy, as hired thugs with strange names, women who gossip and dubious newspaper modelling are all part of a complex plot which is carried off with great aplomb.  As fast moving as its predecessors, this is a book where the tension of possible imminent serious injury or death is diffused by the quips and quotes of the lead characters. 


Set in 1965, this is a world of landline phones, news in papers rather than online, and clubs for gentlemen who play cards. Not that Colin is confident that all will go to his complicated plan at all times, but he has an uncanny ability to read people and decide the best way to proceed. As always Bartram has a way with characters, in their names, “Coldbody” being an accurate description, and their distinguishing features such as a nose that “dominated his face, like it had just landed there and decided to colonise the place”. Their actions always fit in with their established patterns of behaviour, as editor Frank Figgis decides to smoke only black cigarettes until the paper’s owner’s funeral, after the disposal of his black tie following “what happened at…Uncle Whitlow’s wake”. I was really pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this funny and extremely enjoyable book.


This cheeky book opens with the dissolute Viscount Rackham recruiting his Saturday “Little Darling” or girlfriend, before the news breaks that his father has died. Colin discovers a dead body which disturbs him a little, but he keeps his head to make sure that he discovers a significant amount of money and a display of cards which will propel the story as he tries to discover the who, why and how of this first death. He then learns of a long standing crisis for one family and how there are plans to help, and must deal with the threat to his job and the very paper he works for together with his friends. He knows in all this he must get his story, while employing all the tricks and subterfuges he knows. Always with him, encouraging and enabling the surprises and hustles he can imagine, and some he cannot, Shirley brings an Australian brand of quick thinking and opportunism that make the two of them a formidable team.


Colin’s narration is a continual joy, as he admits that he may have missed the lesson in journalism that covered being “stuck in a house with a dead body, a fainted woman, and a fierce dog” . His narration means that the reader finds out what is going on just as he does, but his longer term plan is kept close to his chest, just as the cards are in a memorable game of poker. Not that the reader has to understand cards to follow the action, as Colin and Shirley have to practice their skills in cheating and distracting respectively. The beginnings of “Page 3” girls is covered as Shirley robustly refuses to engage in glamour modelling, and there is the beginning of a lamentable trend to reduce the serious news in daily newspapers. This book reveals much of the time when journalism was an undertaking beyond sound bites and journalists employed complicated stratagems. It is funny, clever and immensely readable, and I greatly look forward to the next instalment of the Deadline Murder Series. 

Blind Witness by Vicki Goldie – an excellent first book of The Charters’ Mysteries Series


This is a wonderful, readable, exciting and highly desirable book! I have many books to read, but this one kept luring me back. A novel set in 1922, published in 2018, a murder mystery set in a country house. With a full and detailed knowledge of the Golden Age Detective novel, this book has so much going for it. It is the first book in a series featuring the Honourable Melissa Charters and her husband Major Alasdair Charters, and their discovery that together they can form a formidable detective and espionage team. While a wife and husband crime fighting team is not unique, this couple face a significant issue; Alasdair is totally blind as a result of his war service. He is sometimes despairing, frustrated by his inability to cope with daily life, let alone being active in identifying what soon emerges to be a murderer in their midst. 


This is more than a conventional murder mystery as there is the suggestion of espionage, especially given the period and the sensitivities of a country so recently involved in a war of so many casualties. The female characters are affected by a war in which they lost sons, lovers and potential husbands. There are fascinating descriptions of the setting, the full chintz of the huge house, contrasted with another local large establishment. Even the outbuildings receive attention, and the importance of Alasdair pacing out and being able to visualize the rooms and layout of the house. The servant problem is especially noted in the circumstances. The clothes worn by Melissa are described in delicious detail, especially as she has the good sense to wear appropriate clothing for her activities. There are also generous details of her eveningwear, which reveals not only extensive research but also a thorough creation of character. Overall there is a terrific sense of time and place in this book, a real depth of understanding of a time and a social system. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.


The book opens with a prologue in which someone hears a noise in the night which sounds significant. The focus soon moves to Alasdair and Melissa going downstairs for dinner. Much is revealed in the description of  the couple as he struggles with his white tie, he wants to be independent of his valet and wife, she reflects on the long battle to get him to leave their serviced flat since his discharge from hospital after suffering his serious injury. She has wanted to visit her aunt and uncle for some time, and this weekend houseparty was originally intended to gently reintroduce her husband to society. However, it soon becomes obvious that the number of people dining has increased, as guests include some of Melissa’s cousins, military men and others. A french countess and her companion turn up, and so does an irate banker full of allegations. In a very short time a full compliment of potential victims and possible murderers is installed in the house, and a classic murder mystery is established.


I so enjoyed this book because of the honest way that Melissa and Alasdair’s relationship is described, his frustrations rather than his immediate ability to do everything easily, his vulnerability when he realises the difficulties of defending himself or his wife. Melissa’s abilities are pointed out to her husband quite early in the novel “She grew up in the countryside, crack shot, excellent horsewoman, fit, and above all, intelligent to boot”, but it is not patronising. She is eager to do something to get to the bottom of the mysteries, and her actions balance her concern to protect others in the house, especially her husband.


This is a book I can whole heartedly recommend to all, and my only question remains: how and when can I read the next one in the series?  


The Louise Fawley Symphony by Rikki Evans – a contemporary adult comedy featuring many strong women!


This is an unusual book, extremely fast paced and readable, tackling a lot of subjects in quick succession. Narrated by the central character, Louise Fawley, this is not a book for the timid or easily shocked, but “an adult readership”. A comedy, a spy adventure, a tale of a young woman with everything, this tale shuttles from a private estate in leafy England through to the south of France, and several places in between. With a smattering of French songs and phrases, this is not the easiest book to follow at times, but it is always interesting. Featuring a young woman with a low boredom threshold, this book does not give the reader time to relax as Louise falls, runs and drives from tense situation to dangerous location. 


This is a book which contains so much alliteration, similes and metaphors I wondered if it has been written with a thesaurus to hand.  The descriptions of people, places sights and sounds are always comprehensively full, but that rather accords with the rather over the top central character in all her unusual style. There are also loving descriptions of cars; the rare roadsters that she drives, and the more cumbersome vehicles driven by those she encounters. This is a sparky and exotic book, and I was intrigued to have the opportunity to read and review it.


Louise Fawley is a woman of secrets, surprises and with a past. It quickly emerges that she is wealthy thanks to a lottery win, and lives alone except for a couple who engage in varying housekeeping and gardening duties. Despite a difficult family background and a much hated school career, she managed to become a company accountant and has some unsuspected abilities. While not as fit as she may wish, and a little sensitive about some physical attributes, she remains a determined and active worker when presented with a whole new career by a face from her past.


While a little disjointed at times, this is a book of great excitement and drive. A contemporary comedy with some very adult themes, this is a book which is enjoyable and certainly keeps the reader on their toes. Louise is a terrific character, with courage and capacities unsuspected by herself and few others. Most of the main characters are strong women, and that is all to the good when there are still too many helpless “women in peril” books. 


I found this book entertaining, with no possibility of being boring in any sense. Louise is a painfully honest character who admits to all her faults, but is essentially a very human adventurer. This could have been a longer book, but actually the fast paced nature of the narrative suits the subject matter very well. So much ground is covered in a short space that the effect is quite dizzying, but there are so great pauses in the action to consider the scenery “to me Sainte-Modeste resembled a gorgeous, generous Battenburg slice, slipping into a tea – green sea”. A great fan of fantastic and fabulous alliteration, Evans is a debut author to watch with much to offer in the engaging character of Louise Fawley.

The Name Beneath the Stone by Robert Newcome – A tale of the Unknown Warrior



In 1920 a mysterious unknown body from the battlefields of the First World War was buried in front of thousands of people in Westminster Abbey. Seen as deeply symbolic of the thousands of lost men from Britain, many families believed there was a chance that the body feted by a king was their loved one who had been listed as Missing in Action. The identity of the man so buried is the subject of this beautifully written novel set in three time frames; 1917 as a soldier, Daniel Dawkins, strives to cope with his past and survive the contradictory tactics of the generals, 1920 as Peter Harding is given an unusual set of orders, and in 2011 Sarah Harding is set on a quest to discover the truth of her grandfather’s story. 


The balance between these three time frames is extremely well maintained in this intriguing novel, as the characters try to cope with the challenges they all face. In the first time frame men are faced with the impossible tasks set out for them in battlefields in which many die and all are treated badly. The difficulties that are faced as a country in mourning makes for problems and decisions that must be made. The family mystery which Sarah confronts is a long standing situation, but it becomes more convoluted as the novel progresses. This is a timely novel as anniversaries of some of the events approach and there is an existing significance to the tomb even today. I have found this book to be both profound and moving, and I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to read and review it.


This book is effective as it is not the story of just three characters in isolation seeking to deal with their own crisis, but also looks in much detail at those around them. As Daniel comes back on leave he visits his childhood love Joyce, who he realises is the only person who truly understands him, but cannot truly know what he faces on his return to France. While he has some true friends among his comrades, they do not understand what motivates him. A young officer, Jeremy Latham, has some appreciation of life on the front but needs the support of more experienced men. His parents tussle with the issues of a family at once proud of his bravery, but fearful of his possible fate. Peter knows something of battlefields, but finds his orders difficult, and the implication of his actions troubling. He knows little or nothing of love, and finds his relationship with a girl he encounters difficult. Sarah enlists the help of a young historian to help her, but James Marchant must work through his discoveries of more than an historical nature. 


There is a sort of black humour throughout the book, and the events of 2011 are actually quite funny and touching. While the main subject of this book is war and the aftermath, it is not overly traumatic but instead gives a form of hope and a sense of true love. There are many fascinating themes in this book, such as the power of words, the nature of war, the contradictions of military life. The impact of the First World War, though now a hundred years ago, still has an impact on our world today, as subsequent conflicts still  bring out questions of loyalty, bravery and the nature of war. I found the sheer humanity of this sophisticated and meaningful book touching and significant, and I found the moral questions of the nature of historical investigation fascinating. I recommend it as a great read and it deserves a lot of attention. 

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson – a Persephone favourite

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Of all the splendid Persephone republished books, this is probably a favourite of many readers. A delightful book which was a little shocking in 1938 when it was first published, its survival was remarkable and a testament to the insight of Persephone books who republished it in 2000 to great popularity. Today it is still a little shocking in   terms of its subject matter of a nightclub singer with a variety of lovers and suggestion of drug use. In a way more shocking is the subject of Miss Pettigrew, downtrodden governess, still bound by the conventions of a strictly moral upbringing, with low expectations of life. She has attained the age of forty without any form of relationship, not unusual for a generation of women who had been young at the end of the First World War whose potential husbands had not returned from the battlefields. She has been bullied by employers as she is probably not a natural teacher, and being an employee living in other people’s houses she has never enjoyed much freedom. She has never had much money to buy clothes or other necessities of life, and her parents made her nervous of using cosmetics as they symbolised moral decadence. This Cinderella type tale of an older woman finding a new life is a parable for conflicting class and lifestyles in the pre Second World War period. I recently chose this book for our book group, and despite it being very different from many of the books we have read, it was very much enjoyed and discussed.


The book opens with the desperate Miss Pettigrew approaching an employment agency for a new position. Her landlady has threatened her with eviction that day if she does not get a job, and she knows that a lowly nursemaid role will now be her only hope. So she goes to an interview in the desperate hope of a job, only to be caught up in a whirl of confusion as the door is opened by a Miss LaFosse, who is being romantically pursued by at least two men. As Miss Pettigrew spontaneously takes control of the various situations that occur during the day, she comes to realise that her moral certainties are less than central, and that she can for at least one day become a different person. As she is taken out for different events and is even lent clothes and make up, she discovers that she has a whole new view on life. 


This book reveals much about the life of women in the interwar period and the limited opportunities for them in employment. Women like Miss Pettigrew would have rejected a life in domestic service, but she was not educated enough for other careers. This is an enjoyable, funny and interesting book in which it seems as if a poor woman has achieved her dreams for one day, and that she will have these memories if nothing else for the rest of her life. There are grim moments when she realises that the workhouse is her only alternative to clinging onto a job, even if she finds the work beyond her. There are some points that may shock today’s reader, as there are some comments about race that may disconcert, but it is a book of its time. It is a joyful book, about a change of an entire life for a day, and the creation of hope. The other characters are well drawn, and there is much humour in the dialogue. It is a cheering book, and can be read and enjoyed by many people.   


Today Northernvicar and I were interviewed on Radio Derby about our graduation which takes place very soon. Arranged by the University Communications department, we were talking about how we returned to University to study for an MA in Public History and Heritage together! It was a bit more relaxed than I imagined it would be, and she asked some very interesting questions….