English Climate: Wartime Stories by Sylvia Townsend Warner – A collection of stories written in a time of challenge

English Climate: Wartime Stories: Amazon.co.uk: Townsend Warner, Sylvia:  9781910263273: Books
English Climate: Wartime Stories by Sylvia Townsend Warner – Persephone  Books

English Climate: Wartime Stories by Sylvia Townsend Warner  

This book contains a tremendous collection of twenty two stories that sum up a lot of the British attitudes to the Second World War. Written in the moment, these stories were submitted to the New Yorker and other publications and have been collected by Persephone in this fascinating book. Though some have not been seen since their original wartime publication, all stand up to being read again in the twenty first century, despite their brevity in some cases. Their accurate representation of life in the English countryside is witty, full of atmosphere and conveys a lot of the sense of the people’s reaction to the shortages, rationing, evacuees and so many other elements. These stories, though excellent and successful, were often unpublished since the original publication; indeed, as Lydia Fellgett writes in her excellent Preface, Townsend Warner was uncertain herself as to whether some of the stories had actually appeared in the New Yorker, given the complicated wartime situation. Fellgett goes on to write that the stories “perfectly balance the domestic and the political. And they bring such joy with their quick humour and their lively detail.” This book features stories of implication, suggestions and dialogue which speak of people beset by war, coming to terms with a new way of life. It is a collection to be savoured.

The stories are wide ranging, beginning with a well travelled shirt, and going on to discuss the almost mundane everyday story of a time bomb. The latter story makes much of the London landscape and what someone would save. “Noah’s Ark” reflects the difficulties people living in the countryside had with the expectations of evacuees, displaced children without parents shipped out into new environments. A mother of evacuees appears in a later story, together with some humour about a donated coat, and exasperation with her demands for help. This book mainly features women, coping, or trying to, with shortages and rations, learning new skills with weaponry, depending on men or striking a blow for independence. There are managing women, who insist on their war effort being up to standard, despairing of those who had not built up a store. There are people in difficult situations, as a funeral may mark more than one death. A story from December 1942 deals with a woman who has designed and surveyed her own remarkable house, as she tries to take over the whole war effort in the area, earning herself the title “Austerity Jane”. A strange tale sends a mixed message about the generosity of others regarding much loved possessions. 

Most of these stories are fairly short, some almost impressions, others introducing more nuanced characters, reacting to new experiences and challenges. The writing is generally light, but none the less successful in conveying so much. Townsend Warner is known for her novels, but also produced several collections of short stories, and on the evidence of this book I would love to track them down. Persephone have produced several collections of stories, diaries and novels actually written during the Second World War, and for its immediacy, its ability to convey an impression of how people felt, and sheer audacity of its style, this is an incredible example of a Persephone reprint. 

Coming Home to Maple Cottage by Holly Martin – a perfect autumn winter escapist read

Coming Home to Maple Cottage by Holly Martin

Coming Home to Maple Cottage by Holly Martin

This is a charming autumn/winter book, with events happening throughout the seasons. Holly Martin has created some vibrant and realistic characters dealing with less than perfect situations, complex family issues and challenges along with romance. Sandcastle Bay is a coastal village where the story is set and some of the characters have appeared in other books, but this is very much a standalone book which I enjoyed (and read quite fast!). Isla Rosewood lives in a cottage with her nephew Elliot following her brother Matthew’s death. Elliot’s mother effectively disappeared before the tragedy, so Isla has given up her flat, career and life in London to look after the little boy. She has support from her family, but the real involvement in their lives comes from Leo Jackson, Matthew’s best friend and Elliot’s godfather. Leo has a difficult history in the village, and Isla knows him well enough to be wary of him, but his care for Elliot is transforming, and she begins to wonder. A series of challenges makes for difficult decisions, and much is discovered about people, their feelings and more in this book which shows real insight into village life and contemporary relationships.

The book opens with Isla and Leo meeting four years before the main narrative of the book, on the evening before Elliot’s christening. Their encounter that night is memorable, but Leo’s behaviour drives Isla back to London. The book properly begins with Isla and Elliot living in Hot Chocolate cottage, and Leo visiting nearly every day. Having been let down previously, and knowing Leo’s reputation, Isla resolves to keep him at arm’s length as far as romance is concerned, though acknowledging that he is a positive element in Elliot’s life. This is difficult to understand for family members in the village, and those who take a great deal of interest in the affairs of others. A very funny scene in a local café shows how people are keen to know exactly what is going on, despite Isla’s reservations. As activities continue in the village, Isla, Elliot and Leo are drawn together. Her confusion is not helped by her two enormous concerns. She is not earning any money as she has been living off proceeds of her London flat sale, but it is now running out. The cottage’s mortgage is paid off, but Sadie’s, Elliot’s absent birth mother, name is still on the title deeds. Isla has been granted guardianship of Elliot, but full adoption has been difficult to achieve as no one has been able to discover Sadie’s whereabouts, though she is suspected to be somewhere exotic. With an ongoing job search and the background concern about Elliot’s future, Isla has little time to spend on considering a romantic future with the dangerously attractive Leo.

This is an enjoyable book with consistent and well-drawn characters who reflect very real life concerns. Even minor characters have their contributions to make to this frequently funny book, especially when the frank and talkative Elliot asks some awkward questions. When Isla experiences challenges and Leo faces difficulties with his past, they are evidently part of a close and enviable community. This is a well written book which has a strong romance at its heart, but also looks at real life problems. I recommend it as a contemporary escapist read which has some fascinating twists and turns.

The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas by Carole Matthews – a book of Friendship and Chocolate

The Chocolate Lovers' Christmas (Christmas Fiction): Amazon.co.uk: Carole  Matthews: 9780751552133: Books

The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas by Carole Matthews

A book about the joy and comfort of chocolate – and some women who eat it! This book is centred around a group of women who share a friendship which means a lot to each one of them, especially when expressed through chocolate treats. This is a funny book which deals with the lead up to Christmas on one level, but is really about the complicated relationships the women find themselves in. Although each character has appeared in previous books by Carole Matthews, this book stands up very well as a book on its own. Partly narrated by Lucy, who has a very funny tendency to get herself into all sorts of trouble and her relationship with “Crush” or Aiden, this book also looks at more serious issues of complex family arrangements. Nadia has faced a terrible situation in the past, but now needs to cope with a changed life with a small son, Lewis, and so needs help from the other members of the group. Autumn helps with Lewis, but  her fiance is perhaps less than supportive. Chantal has the confidence of a super model, but is finding looking after her daughter more than exhausting. While chocolate is the answer for most situations in the short term, it may well take more to deal with them long term. Fortunately Lucy is bound to come up with a scheme – that involves roping in other members of The Chocolate Lovers’ Club in this enjoyable and endearing read. 

The book opens with Lucy expounding a few of her theories about chocolate, a subject she loves – “I, Lucy Lombard, manager of Chocolate Heaven and self – confessed chocolate addict”. It is her ideal job, running a small chocolate shop and cafe in London. Her friends gather there to recover from their challenges, and she loves selling chocolate products to locals drawn in by her displays. She has many ideas for increasing trade, but her long hours in the shop is affecting her relationship with Crush, despite their love for each other. Various incidents, including a very funny encounter with chocolate body paint, lighten the mood of this book on a regular basis. Indeed, despite the real challenges faced by the women, Lucy’s talent for disaster always makes this contemporary read a well balanced and often funny book. Autumn’s family situation is difficult, despite money not being a problem, and Matthews’ ability to sensitively deal with the pressure of distant parents is well illustrated. Chantel’s situation of exhaustion is a common problem, but her relationship with her partner is made more complex by an unusual link to another woman. Nadia has employment problems which put more pressure on a single mother, but her friends are there to help.

This is an enjoyable book which does not need to be kept for Christmas time, though it may influence the reader to look for chocolate while reading. Despite some of the themes explored, this is generally an uplifting book, if only because of Lucy’s antics. It is a sensitively written, with vivid and lively dialogue which suggests the characters immediately. The setting, in a small shop cafe, is well drawn, which is also the case when the focus is further afield. The ongoing issue of Lucy’s ex – boyfriend is well handled, as are some issues which the book tackles. This is an enjoyable read not limited to Christmas, celebrating people, friendship and of course, chocolate.   

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – a humourous look at murder, investigation and later life

The Thursday Murder Club: The Record-Breaking Sunday Times Number One  Bestseller: Amazon.co.uk: Osman, Richard: 9780241425442: Books

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

This book is probably worth the hype. It gives a positive view of older people, seemingly retired in a community for the elderly, but with the determination, persistence and bravery normally only allocated to the young in fiction. This is a book of mystery, murder and notably, things that happened a long time before it began, as integrated and complicated like real lire. Nothing is straightforward, which is how most of the characters like it. Each of the characters has great depth and a backstory, even if it is never explained in this first book of what promises to be a successful series. Contrasting ways of life adds to the charm, even if more than one murder is the theme. The humour is understated and very based on the individuals concerned, and emerges in the dialogue and in one case the pages of a diary. Expectations for how people should behave and think is pleasantly upset, and there are many twists and turns. I found it really enjoyable, packed with red herrings and surprises, and a thoroughly readable novel.

At the beginning of the novel, which begins with the title “Meet New People and Try New Things”, Joyce reveals her introduction to the Thursday Murder Club in pages of her diary. Elizabeth asks her, during lunch, about knife wounds. Being an ex nurse, Joyce was able to supply the information, gaining the approval not only of Elizabeth, but also Ibrahim, who she is yet to meet properly. PC Donna De Freitas turns up to do her Practical Home Security talk, though bored with the relaxed attitude to policing in the quiet area of Fairhaven. Poised to talk about window locks and identification, she soon discovers that the residents of Coopers Chase Retirement Village expect something more, even though one wistfully observes “I’d welcome a burglar. It would be nice to have a visitor”. Elizabeth introduces herself and Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim, as not friends but a group which comes together to discuss crimes. Donna is quietly taken with the group, which is fortunate as when a murder takes place which is firmly connected with the Village. Donna is desperate to get involved in the investigation, and there is a subtle way that it is achieved with the connivance of the group, who continue to work alongside the police in somewhat unusual ways. Not that anyone has any idea where the whole project is headed; even the controlling, free thinking and ubiquitous Elizabeth takes chances on things that baffle and bewilder others. 

This is an often lighthearted, sometimes touching book, which deals with death in a respectful way without undue sentimentality. Murder is involved, but is never brutal in the eyes of those investigating in either an official or unofficial way. I found it a well written and plotted book, which reveals the human side of both police, those involved in crime. The characters are well written, consistent and interesting, who often reveal hidden depths. This book strongly argues for older people enjoying a certain black humour, and different life views based on long experience and practical expediency. Elizabeth is a cleverly written character, letting slip details of a mysterious and exciting past. This is a good read, full of in-jokes, moving asides and understandable emotions. I recommend it as a cosy mystery in some ways, a humourous read, and an incisive book about attitudes to later life.  

A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell – A story of women on the Home Front in 1943

A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls (The Shipyard Girls Series):  Amazon.co.uk: Revell, Nancy: 9781787464278: Books

A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls

This a book that, like many of its type, finishes with Christmas celebrations, but is mainly about the rest of the year.This is a challenging year for the women who work in a shipyard in Sunderland, it being 1943 the Second World War is still has not yet been decided. Bombing raids still take place, there is a desperate need for the ships they are making and repairing, and some characters are away from home and in some danger. Not all the women are welders,though that was the focus of the earlier books in the series; some of the other women work in the office, look after the children and have other occupations. The range of relationships between them is part of the attraction of these books, and the closeness of most of the women is their strength. Not that they always agree, or find their relationships always easy. Past hurts, secrets and some evasions from the truth are challenges that must be coped with by everyone at some point. Helen is a great success at running the shipyard, but is suspicious of her family. Bel is still in love with Joe and adores her daughter, but is sad that she has not got the big family she so longs for so long after her second marriage. Polly is married and hopes for an addition so, but, her husband is still at risk and away from home. Other people in this book are planning changes, but can they all survive at this dangerous time?

The book begins in part of one the local hospitals, where Helen has come to find her friend Dr Parker, now convinced of her true feelings for him. She is surprised and upset to find him in an apparently compromising situation with Dr Claire Eris, who has her own agenda for the handsome doctor. Pearl has also arrived with her daughter Bel in search of her friend Bill, but has wandered into a different room and made a significant discovery. Charlotte is still causing problems and asking questions trying to find out about the various women as well as Rosie, and has established a firm relationship with Lily. Polly is struggling with advice from all quarters, as she struggles to hold on to hope for a happy reunion with her husband. Meanwhile,Bel and Pearl share a huge secret, but will they keep silent?

This book describes wonderful and memorable characters in a way that draws the reader in. I meant to take my time reading this book, but once I started to read the book I was hooked, and as I read through the book I was so keen to discover what would happen with each character in their particular storylines which are cleverly blended together. The dialogue is rich and varied, as they range between Angie’s local accent and the educated tones of Helen. Revell has a keen ear for the timing, the sense and the pace of speech of the people in all their varied occupations, and it is this that helps bring the story alive. I really enjoyed this really readable book, and recommend it to everyone who enjoys an involving story featuring strong women in challenging times.              

Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley – a festive novel of a memorable family, friends and food

Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley | Waterstones

Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley

A house- sitting job over the festive season for a young woman who does not want to celebrate Christmas is the theme of this immensely popular book from Trisha Ashley. It starts with the familiar idea of becoming snowed in with an oddly assorted group of people into a large country house, but happily there is no murder, despite some fairly heated comments! This book has it all, romance, fantastic food and a lot of fun. There are some sad moments which give rise to some of the storylines, but essentially this is a modern Christmas classic. The character of Holly Brown who recounts this novel is a fascinating one, and her narrative reveals so much about the consistent characterisation throughout the novel.  The rural setting is also well described, as bad weather settles in and very few vehicles can move. There are animals, Christmas traditions, and small details that contribute to an overall celebration of a lovely holiday season. The other theme is the food, the solid winter meals which feed a large number of people, the using up of a stock of food which satisfies a lot of  instincts, the description of the planning meals and so much more. Altogether this is a deeply satisfying and most enjoyable book.

The book begins with Holly describing how she became a widow at a young age, after her much loved husband died in an accident years before, and to a certain extent her anger at being deserted. The recent death of her grandmother has also rocked her life view as the rather strict woman’s final words suggested an unknown man in her life. Her late husband’s sister is her best friend, and invites her for a family Christmas, an invitation she turns down in preference for a house sitting job in an isolated house. She does not want to celebrate Christmas as she was never allowed to as a child, and she wants to think about her husband on the anniversary of his death. When she arrives she meets the family of the house owner, a remarkable elderly couple and their granddaughter Jess. She encounters other members of the small community, and soon realises that the absent Jude usually holds a family Christmas meal for many of the locals. Reluctantly agreeing to cook some of the vast quantities of food in the house, she soon discovers that she has taken on a huge task, taking on some of the responsibilities of the absent Jude. Horses, a dog and some remarkable characters contribute to a funny, memorable and satisfying story. 

Those who know Ashley’s work may well begin to predict the romance element of this book, but the plotting and side issues of this book are enormously entertaining. An old diary fascinates Holly, there are tales of a secret celebration, and the unpredictable weather means that everyone’s stay at the house is uncertain. This is a book with a lot going on, effectively mirroring real life. Holly is a sympathetic character who is written with great depth and understanding. On the surface this appears to be a light read, but it has lots to interest and even inform. The food sounds wonderful and so much detail makes this a wonderful festive read. 

Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink – A book about the joy of reading and the love of books

Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books: Amazon.co.uk: Rentzenbrink, Cathy:  9781509891528: Books

Dear Reader by Cathy Rentzenbrink

The subtitle of this book is “The Comfort and Joy of Books”, and it really fits this memoir of a life in books.  “Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved books. She still does. She always will.” It is an honestly written, beautifully flowing story of growing up with books as a child, permanently distracted by books. Adult life took many unforeseen twists and turns, some happier than others, some tragic and some big adventures. Throughout she read, re read and enjoyed her books. When they became her career as well, Cathy found her true element: people and books. This is an account of a true evangelist for reading, especially those for whom it has been a hard worn skill, and for those who have discovered that even in the toughest of times it is a comfort, a distraction and so much more. This is a book that inspires readers to read more, and to read with enjoyment. I found it a fascinating and well written book, with enough interesting personal detail to make it a realistic and sometimes moving read. 

What I particularly enjoyed about this book were the sections which gave relevant book titles, and a paragraph as to why it is a good read. It ranges from “The Enduring Consolations of Crime”  listing seven books of crime fiction, interestingly all by women, to “Books about Writers”. This is the element that can make reading this book expensive or at the very least time consuming, as Cathy “sells” each book so persuasively that it compels discovery or rediscovery of books. It certainly had me reaching for a notebook to make out yet another book list.

The book works chronologically in terms of Cathy’s life. It recounts how she was a bookish child, seeing the example of her mother who undertook study with the Open University, and her father who struggled with the basics of writing. As with many whose reading age was far in advance of their chronological age, as a child Cathy struggled with teachers who refused to accept that reading schemes were simply too slow for children who were tackling bigger and longer books from choice. As her father’s employment necessitated frequent moves around the country, she was teased about her accent and more, so took refuge in books.  Her first selection of books is thus “Children’s Books I Love to Reread”, in addition to her appreciation of the great C. S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. A tragic accident means that she refocused on books that delivered an alternative perspective on life, such as those set in wartime, by Mary Wesley, whose young characters were seen as “fellow members of my support group”. 

The further adventures of Cathy included a time in America, then a return to Britain working in the book department of Harrods. Awakened to the joys and challenges of selling books, she progressed to Waterstones, management, and then to working with a range of books designed to help adult learners.

This is a book which inspires and effectively conveys the life long love of books as a comfort and joy in all ways. Cathy has succeeded in recounting her life story as an inspiration to read and enjoy books of every kind, and this book is a wonderful read and sure to become a favourite.  

The Cornish Cream Tea Christmas by Cressida McLaughlin – A Cornish hotel, romance and fantastic festive food

The Cornish Cream Tea Christmas by Cressida McLaughlin

Hannah Swan loves Christmas. She also loves food, so when she hears that she is to go to Cornwall for a few days just before Christmas she is less concerned with the scenery than the possibility of discovering the famous bus that serves Cream teas. This charming romance is filled with lovely descriptions of a modern hotel built in the shadow of an old building, the people associated with it, and the reality of a new colleague who seems reluctant to be with her. This book is concerned with the preparations for Christmas in the small Cornish community, and is seen largely from the point of view of a young woman who is excited by what she experiences in so many ways. There is an element of mystery, and more than a hint of ghostly happenings, as well as detailed descriptions of seasonal foods. This is a lively and well plotted story, with an amusing ear for dialogue. The hotel is described so well that it is easy to visualize, and the area is successfully brought to life in this vivid and very readable book. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this lovely book.  

The book begins with eco -consultant Hannah travelling from her home in Edinburgh. Although a food fan who once worked in a restaurant, she is not greatly excited about Christmas itself, which she usually spends with her mother and brother, she is more keen on her “friends meal” that she cooks before the big day for her close friends. She does love the colours and decorations associated with Christmas, and is disappointed at the boring train decor. Being an environmental consultant she is doing her first out of office site visit, assessing a hotel for more elements that would improve its green credentials. She is picked up from the station by Noah, a local environmental expert who will work with her on Crystal Waters hotel. He seems subdued and constrained, though he begins to thaw in the beautiful hotel, especially when the owner, Daniel, shows them how much he has achieved already. Hannah is enthusiastic about the hotel, especially its menu, and is impressed by its setting in the small village. She finds the Cream tea bus, and Charlie, its generous owner and Daniel’s girlfriend. A huge storm means that she soon gains a real insight into the people who live in the community, and she begins to wonder if she has visited Porthgolow as a child. She also meets a woman who has come to investigate a particular element of the hotel’s history, which may have left an echo. Can she do justice to the food and people, especially when she is so far from home?

This is a lively book which I found very vivid and convincing. The romance is unusual, and the people generally attractive in their characterisation. The Cornish setting is well described, as is the hotel. There is a certain element of comedy in some of the dialogue, and there is a lovely Christmas atmosphere in this gentle book. I recommend it as a good festive read, as a most enjoyable book.

Triumph of the Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell – In 1943 the women of the shipyard must cope with life on the Home Front

Triumph of the Shipyard Girls: 8 (The Shipyard Girls Series): Amazon.co.uk:  Revell, Nancy: 9781787464261: Books

Triumph of the Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell

This book begins at Christmas 1942, following seven previous books in a vibrant series featuring women who work in a shipyard in Sunderland. Unlike the previous books, however, this book has lots of flashbacks to the 1930s in the case of Rosie. This book stands alone in its strong contribution to the overall ensemble story of war and strong women who are struggling to survive. Along with some of the previous books in this series, there are vivid stories in this novel of life, love and some sadness against the background of war. Several of the characters work as welders in a gang of highly skilled women, while Bel works in the office and Helen organizes much of the work in Thompson’s yard. Their families, represented by strong women like Agnes, are struggling on with raids, shortages and other problems of life on the home front. In this novel Rosie, the leader of the welding gang, has to struggle with her younger sister Charlotte, who is immensely curious about Lily and her business. Worse still, the teenager is also keen to discover why she was sent to an obscure boarding school so far away, and it is this questioning which problems memories of past trauma. This is a book which kept me fully engaged from the beginning, as I was so keen to discover what happened next. I enjoyed it tremendously and found it so hard to put down.

As always in these books, Revell manages to run several storylines at once, including the flashbacks to Rosie’s traumas, which is extremely well handled. She does explain the events in a storyline with delicacy and honesty. Rosie’s friends are supportive, especially the irrepressible Lily and her developing relationship with Charlotte who is visibly fascinated by her and her home. It proves difficult for some of the young women not to drop hints about Lily’s business, especially in Charlotte’s attentive hearing. Meanwhile Polly is coming to terms with the absence of her great love, and the implications of her discovery. Happily Helen is now so involved with the women who work on the yard and those she has recently come to know so well that she will provide practical and financial support. However, she too is curious, and enlists help to discover secrets that have been long kept. She is determined to maintain and improve production of vital ships in the yard, but realizes that cannot be done in isolation.

I found this book well researched in terms of daily life and details of clothes, housing and the effects of the raids on Sunderland. This book is about far more than bombing and the obvious effects of the war, but is a vivid picture of what the war was like for those in places like Sunderland.  The amount of research that has gone into this book is immense, yet it is never obvious. The characterization is excellent, and makes this a very special book. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the way women who coped with so many challenges, and the emotional demands put upon people. This is a well written book and I am looking forward to reading the next installment as soon as possible.  

Three Seasons of Sadie by Richard Masefield – a comedy set in the 1960s in a seaside town’s theatre

Three Seasons of Sadie by Richard Masefield

Eastbourne in the 1960s was far from an exciting and trendy place for a young man keen to have his first experience of ‘love’, yet it is the setting of Sam’s education in the ways of the world. Sam is nineteen, having finished at an all boys boarding school with some slight experience of dramatic productions, finds himself lodging with an aunt and working in the local theatre. He is lacking in self confidence and knowledge of the world, but he soon meets a group of people who will change everything. This lively comedy is full of memorable characters, from an odious dog called Nanki-Poo to the sublime film star Abigail Compton, and this humorous book describes Sam’s progress during a heady few weeks of secret assignations, suspected deaths, theatrical behaviour and cricket. This very enjoyable book is full of vivid descriptions of life in a repertory theatre as a touring production arrives, and for various reasons challenges emerge to everyone. I found this a most enjoyable book, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

The book begins with a very funny Prologue, in which Sam describes his hapless attempt to shrink his Levi jeans in a bath of hot water. His rescuer is his cousin Mag, and she provides accommodation and a job. Sam has grown up on a farm, and while he loves the family business he is keen to explore the world, or at least the nearest town. To the excitement of many a theatre company is due to perform a production of three one act plays, starring the film star Abigail Compton. She has been out of the public eye for a while, and this production is en route to London, supposedly marking a comeback. To say she is mesmerising is an understatement, and she is at the centre of a company who are organised to show her in the best light. While Abigail is very attractive, she has a daughter who is nearer Sam’s age, and he believes at last he can have a relationship. The humour in this book emerges from his attempts to have a few moments alone with Cordelia, the characters in the company, and Sam’s attempts to discover who is responsible for a series of incidents that threaten to upset every performance. He imagines himself to be a famous foreign detective, and tries to compile a list of suspects. Meanwhile Mag holds her games evening, a cricket match must be played, and as assistant stage manager Sam is in the midst of the mayhem as Abigail keeps the show going on.

The humour in this book ranges from the subtle in jokes of the sixties, theatrical life and Sam’s self confessed attempts to lose his innocence. It is well observed, well written and the plot is carefully constructed in the face of theatrical high jinks. The sense of the time period goes beyond research and succeeds in creating the atmosphere of the sixties in a consistent way. Sam’s voice is a fascinating record of his point of view throughout. This is a really good read which provides a lot of entertainment in a coming of age book with absolutely no sense of self pity. I recommend it as an enjoyable read which is full of humour and insight into the sixties and a young man’s life.