The Night Lawyer by Alex Churchill – Sophie, young barrister, faces the challenges of contemporary life

 

A thriller, an indictment of the British legal system and a story of a personal struggle, there is so much going on in this contemporary novel it draws the reader in and keeps her there! Sophie Angel is a young barrister with quite a reputation despite her relative inexperience. She is dedicated, involved and determined to do a good job for her clients as she is mainly involved in defence work. She has worked out how to get the most from the evidence, how to approach clients and enjoys appearing in court. Despite all this, she has her problems. Like many younger barristers she is not on a guaranteed income, and has to pick up smaller cases to ensure she has enough to pay her bills. That is why she is a “Night Lawyer”, sitting in a national newspaper office on one night a week checking the text of the newspaper for libel before it is published. She is married to Theo, a star of the barristers’ chambers, a recent QC who is building his practice. He has secrets, and dictates a lot of what they do as a couple and how she should improve her career. When she gets involved in a difficult case, she begins to struggle with doubts, especially as her past life as a small child in Russia is beginning to haunt her nightmares. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this engaging and complex novel with real depth. 

 

The book opens with a Prologue which details what Sophie feels as she sits alone in the newspaper office alone, overlooking London by night. She has been told of a young man who she met and rejected as someone she could defend in court, given her strong suspicion that he has admitted his guilt. He is reported to be looking for her, which she puts on one side as another worry. The action then reverts to three months earlier. As Sophie narrates her story, she puts in a lot of information about the contemporary life of a barrister, some of the rules, the clothes and traditions that have grown up over the years. She also points out the limitations and systematic problems in today’s legal system, with particular crimes receiving a lot of attention. As she struggles with her daily work, she becomes suspicious of her husband’s behaviour, which puts pressure on her work as well. When she meets another Russian emigre, she begins to realise that her relationship with her Russian father and her parents’ flight from the country are affecting her life.

 

This book has great depth and more as the real life problems of a young lawyer are exposed. While Sophie enjoys the tradition behind her job, the discrimination against women is still painful. This book is obviously written from a position of real knowledge and experience, and the construction of the multilayered plot is well handled. I found it engaging and gripping, as the tension builds up throughout the book, and simply could not put it down. This is a fiercely effective book of a woman’s contemporary experience written into fiction, and I really recommend it.     

 

One of the things I am enjoying at the moment is to review a real mixture of books – from brand new books to classics, via fairly recent books. It seems as though there will be a lot of new books coming out in September, part of the result of later publication delayed from the last few months. I can already see it will be a busy time. Are you looking forward to particular books coming out in the near future?

Jigsaw Island by Lynne McVernon – Can Annie find solutions for herself and so many others?

 

Annie seems to live in a beautiful part of Scotland, but there is trouble in paradise, a fact which is even more evident when she takes her son Jude to visit her brother on a Greek island. This is a novel about the difficulties of life that a woman can meet in a contemporary world, when determination to find a different way of life can lead to trouble. It is also a very powerful look at the way the arrival of refugees on Greek islands means that those who seek to help are always meeting enormous challenges. There is so much in this novel that it is quite breathtaking, as the author also manages to put in a mystery that reverberates across several years. Identity, family loyalty and the imperfections that affect realistic characters, this is a novel which is memorable for all the right reasons. It creates a strong impression of how the islands cope with an influx of people who have risked everything to travel on the sea, and gives glimpses into their fates. I found this an engaging book with high ambitions, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it. 

 

The book opens with Annie, a young woman, struggling with her thirteen year old son Jude. He is a mixed – race boy in a small Scottish coastal town as the author describes him, with quite a temper. Her desperation to cope with him leads her to bring forward a trip to see her brother Fraser on Symi, one of the Dodecanese Islands of Greece. He has connections there; to Clair who runs painting groups and spends the rest of her time helping some of the refugees who crowd onto the islands for much of the year, her daughter Jess who manages to get her own way most of the time, and owners of bars, hotels and others who make his life possible as he gets by as a bookkeeper. He also goes out as a volunteer on a boat which tries to help those who turn up in the local waters in makeshift craft. Annie and Fraser come from an unusual family, and the early part of the book goes back to the story of how Annie ran away to London as a teenager. The novel then goes on to the present day, as the desperate Annie turns up on the island with the truculent  Jude, hoping that the effects of the community will settle and give him a new focus. It soon seems as if they will both meet significant people, and will find new challenges, especially when the past seems to be catching up with everyone. 

 

The book cleverly combines some shocking tales within the main narrative, and reveals the vulnerability of people in many settings. There is attention to detail, especially in terms of clothing and setting, which really lefts the rest of the story off the page. The author also has a good ear for dialogue, as the various age groups and people are brought to life by their speech and small actions. This is particularly important as a mystery must be solved as a real threat emerges. I found it a good read, with a lot of depth and meaning. I recommend it to those interested in contemporary fiction which reveals real life in this country, as well as some of the reality of the reception of refugees on the islands of a country on the edge.  

 

I found this a fascinating book, partly because I have met some refugees locally, and attempted to teach them English. This book tells some of the stories of people who have risked so much to flee from certain countries, and includes an actual story of one man who had a complex and challenging route to Devon. Please do not be put off by some of the  themes of this book; there is some real humour and insight shown in the writing throughout the novel.

Clouds of Love and War by Rachel Billington – wartime freedom and dangers of flight

Clouds of Love and War (July 2020) / Books / Rachel Billington

Clouds of Love and War by Rachel Billington

 

Clouds play an important part in this beautifully written novel set in the early part of the Second World War. They are what conceals, comforts and challenges Eddie, pilot and determined young man who is at the centre of this brilliantly written book of love and war in which Billington looks at the human cost of a war that was fought over the fields of Britain. Clouds are also important to Eva, a solitary young woman who tries to set them down on paper, along with much else in her discoveries of life, love and much more. This mature and well constructed novel carries the reader to the heights of skies which tempt the most earthbound of characters up into the planes which are almost characters in their own right. She is interested in the colours and forms, falling into the distraction from a family life of separation. Older people sigh and remember another war and other losses, as the countryside and a particular paradise like house is shown in comparison with other places which show the evidence of bombs. 

 

This is an astonishingly engaging book which balances so well on the edge of lives observed with a sensitivity which shows more than research; this book shows an acute understanding of the contradictions which most people felt a lot of the time in this uniquely inclusive conflict. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this wonderful book of love and war.  

 

The book opens with a visit by Fred to his son’s college in Oxford. A veteran of the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War, he knows that Eddie’s obsession with learning to fly in the skies he keeps gazing up at is going to mean that he will learn of battle in the near future, even if it is only March 1939. “They’re training you to be a killer” he says, but this a man who has searched for a philosophy of life in the wake of a War he needs to make sense of in some way. Eddie, however, is like an addict, such is his determination  to move around in a sky which seems so much his element.  Eva is a vision he encounters at a lunch party, who dominates his thoughts in a new way. Eva is also a creature of flesh and blood who is also isolated as an only child in a large house with an older distracted father can be, and she finds her expression in drawing and painting, capturing something of what and who she sees around her. Drawn together in brief moments, their contradictions and challenges run alongside a world of targets and people, hatred and love, and discovering something of a special sort of togetherness. 

 

This book is a superb testament to the challenges facing very young pilots in the Battle of Britain and beyond, dealing with difficult odds while discovering life and love. Eddie comes vividly to life in a book which captures the contradictions of a life of the freedom of the skies with the continual need to be aware of danger. Eva is also a convincing character as she considers the realities of love and loss which are not always as obvious as they seem. The other characters such as Sylvia add more than depth; they reflect the nature of faith and understanding not possessed by some of the other characters. This is a fully realised picture of a time, eighty years ago, when there was little certainly and many challenges. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in these times and the people who lived through them.    

 

This historical novel is about a fascinating period at a time only just in living memory. It is a strong tale of the actual men who fought as the few, and the delicate situation which they lived, almost on the edge of defeat. I seem to be encountering a lot of books about the Second World War at the moment – is it the recent V.E. celebration I wonder?

Paris Savages by Katherine Johnson – an historical story of spirits, science and the treatment of people

 

An historical novel which brings to life the unfortunate experience of small groups of people brought to Europe in the 1880s, this is a book of large themes and horrors. Hilda is a young woman who has travelled to Fraser Island, Australia and spent six years there, learning of and experiencing at first hand the Badtjala people, their family links, traditions and superstitions. When her father, a troubled engineer, decides to take three of the surviving tribe members to Germany and beyond, Hilda believes that it is to help raise funds for a reserve in which they can live safely. This is a complex tale told in journal entries, third person narration and from the viewpoint of a ghostly interpreter. The three individuals they take, Bonny, Jurano and Dorondera, are far more vulnerable than they at first seem, especially to the exploitation and more that they face. This is a book in which the settings of nineteenth century Europe really come alive, and the attitudes towards the “other” are demonstrated in all their painful reality. This is a novel which deals with the nuances of the treatment of people who were denied voices then, and has therefore something to say about how people are treated today. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.

 

The book opens with Hilda remembering her mother and observing her father as they live amid the tribespeople in almost dreamlike circumstances. Several of the older people remember losses of loved ones, yet there are also the small touches of humour as the natural world affects the dances and lives of the people and Hilda’s friends. She mourns her mother, and remembers vividly the things she said, how she looked, how she wrote in her journal. Hilda has a close relationship with the tribespeople, and taking the three individuals abroad creates all sorts of feelings for her, the desire to protect them, the fear of their embarrassment and suffering. Their experiences are hurtful in many ways, their living quarters insulting, and there is an enthusiasm to treat them as exhibits, objects to be measured, anything but people. Bonny in particular is physically strong, determined and focused on his intention to see Queen Victoria in person, but even he struggles to retain his dignity and sense of self in the face of challenges. The young woman, Dorondera, suffers from the indignity of being surrounded by men who want to examine her, treat her as an object, claiming that the needs of science overcome the considerations of common humanity.

 

This is a novel of showmanship, of how the prospect of financial gain can overcome conscience. This is not the hopeful world of the earliest circus celebrated in film, but of the sordid shows of people from other ethnic groups, treated like animals, with little concern for their well being and dignity. Written off as being less than human, Hilda sees their sadness. This book is full of the spirits, the stories and the impossible to explain elements of a life so different from that experienced in Europe, and Johnson writes so powerfully of the pain of that misunderstanding. Johnson is so good on the telling details of people encountered that many people spring from the story making it a complex tale. I recommend this book as a powerful exploration of lives lived in the shadow of discrimination and more, with many implications for today’s world.

 

I found this a complex and painfully honest book. It certainly shows a very different type of historical novel from many I have reviewed on this blog, which shows the variety in this genre. It is a very powerful read.

 

  

Three for V.E. – three books that I am reading at the moment featuring the Second World War

FURROWED MIDDLEBROW: Sneak preview, FM30 & FM31 - CAROLA OMAN ...

Eve's War: The diaries of a military wife during the second world ...

 

Transcription: Amazon.co.uk: Atkinson, Kate: 9780857525888: Books

 

Three for V.E. 

 

Here are three books I am reading at the moment (yes, I read lots of books at the same time) and it occurred to me that they were all about the Second World War – and about women’s experiences of it. I hope to do a review of each eventually, but thought it might be interesting to look at them to mark this day, the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe.

 

The first book was originally published in 1940, and has been reprinted by the wonderful Dean Street Press in 2019 so it is easy to get hold of – “Nothing to Report” by Carol Oman. Mary Morrison is a busy woman in her village in 1939 – but despite all her occupations, she begins to realise that a War is coming. Whether it is because she expects relatives and friends to descend on her, or she knows that she will be asked to contribute in various ways, she realises that everything will change.

 

“Eve’s War” is a collection of diaries from a “military wife”, Evelyn Shillington, beginning in 1935, and ending in war – ravaged Italy, as she followed her husband Captain Rex Shillington on various postings. Edited by the wonderful Barbara Fox, who has produced books which often feature wartime memories, she has done a lively and excellent job of bringing these diary entries to many people.

 

The third book is a novel set in London, from 1940 onwards, and features eighteen year old Juliet Armstrong as she discovers war is not only fighting on a battlefield. “Transcription” by Kate Atkinson is a book published in 2018, looking at a woman’s work, and what happened in the aftermath to a war which changed everything.

 

I could have picked other books, especially from Persephone who have over twenty books written during or about the War years. My favourite wartime author is undoubtedly Angela Thirkell, who wrote several books at a time when the outcome of the war was far from obvious, combining humour, realism and people’s reactions to great effect.

 

Have you any favourite books from or about the period?

A Ration Book Wedding by Jean Fullerton – a new book to come!

 

Not a review, but to promote a book – A Ration Book Wedding by Jean Fullerton promises to be the sort of intense family saga of the Second World War which has been much loved by Jean’s many fans over the last few years. Especially topical given today’s anniversary, this book will show that in the darkness there was light. The Publishers say:

 

Because in the darkest days of the Blitz, love is more important than ever.

It’s February 1942 and the Americans have finally joined Britain and its allies. Meanwhile, twenty-three-year-old Francesca Fabrino, like thousands of other women, is doing her bit for the war effort in a factory in East London. But her thoughts are constantly occupied by her unrequited love for Charlie Brogan, who has recently married a woman of questionable reputation, before being shipped out to North Africa with the Eighth Army.

When Francesca starts a new job as an Italian translator for the BBC Overseas Department, she meets handsome Count Leonardo D’Angelo. Just as Francesca has begun to put her hopeless love for Charlie to one side and embrace the affections of this charming and impressive man, Charlie returns from the front, his marriage in ruins and his heart burning for Francesca at last. Could she, a good Catholic girl, countenance an illicit affair with the man she has always longed for? Or should she choose a different, less dangerous path?

 

 Jean Fullerton is the author of thirteen novels all set in East London where she was born. She also a retired district nurse and university lecturer. She won the Harry Bowling prise in 2006 and after initially signing for two East London historical series with Orion she moved to Corvus, part of Atlantic Publishing and is halfway through her WW2 East London series featuring the Brogan family.

 

My review of “A Ration Book Childhood”, part of this series, is to be found here  https://northernreader.wordpress.com/2019/10/10/a-ration-book-childhood-by-jean-fullerton-family-life-in-the-london-blitz-in-the-1940s/

 

A purchase link is here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ration-Book-Wedding/dp/1786496097/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

 

Confetti at the Cornish Cafe by Phillipa Ashley – can Demi cope with a wedding in Kilhallon?

Confetti at the Cornish Cafe by Phillipa Ashley

 

A book which whisks the reader to Cornwall is always a treat, and this one talks realistically about the weather and farming inconveniences, as well as the problems of event organisations. One of a series based on Kilhallon Resort, it features some complicated relationships between families, especially where Demi and Cal are concerned. Old grudges and past hurts are brought into the story, as well as some notoriously difficult characters. Another big issue, of the ongoing search for a child in a challenging situation, dominates the thoughts of one of the characters. The main plot of this book relates to Demi’s attempt to turn the resort into a natural wedding venue. Rather than starting small, however, they are offered the chance to host the informal wedding of two popular celebrities, actors Lily Craig and Ben Trevone. With the eyes of the media on them, can Demi and her team pull off organising the celebrity wedding of the year as their first venture? Or will the odds stack up against them? With human difficulties and challenges of a canine nature, will there be calamity or confetti in a corner of Cornwall?

 

Demi narrates much of the story, as she worries about the sheer logistics of expanding from her successful new cafe with its memorable menu to catering for a designer wedding. She manages to enlist one of her family/ friends to act as a wedding planner to hire in various companies to provide different elements of the reception. Unfortunately Lily and Ben’s entourage throw in some extra demands which adds to Demi’s stress. Meanwhile relatives and locals with involvement in the area are not always keen to help; Mawgan is a difficult and wealthy woman in the village who is keen to scrape an aquaintance with Lily and Ben in order to get in on the act. Cal’s interest and involvement is genuine, but he is distracted by a person from the past. While the major selling point of the resort is the beauty of the area and its isolation, but the weather is not always kind. When Lily and Ben make a preliminary visit to the area, drama erupts centred around Lily’s small dog, Louie, to whom she is very attached.  Harry is her bodyguard, but he is obviously very fond of her and takes many risks. 

 

I found this a well written book which drew me into complex relationships which were established before the opening of this novel. I enjoyed it as a standalone book without having encountered the previous books in the set, because Ashley is a good writer who handles her material so well it is entertaining on its own. The small elements such as Demi’s particular recipes for treats for the cafe are well explored. I also enjoyed the idea of Demi’s pride in her book of treats for dogs, which fits in well with one of the non speaking characters in the book, Mitch the dog. The characters in this book are very well drawn, even to the minor ones mentioned, and the ending more than satisfactory. I recommend this as a light read which is very easy to enjoy.   

 

I am still searching around for books that take my interest, and sometimes I am not able to find other books in the series. If it was possible I would no doubt be hunting around for others in the series. As it is I am so keen to read lighter books that I am not always too worried waiting sort out the correct order. So, here is one of Phillipa’s books, and I believe I have a couple of her others in a different series to come. I have been getting some books from other places, so who knows what will turn up next? I might even climb over some of daughter’s stuff…

No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym – Love researched and explored

No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym

 

Dulcie is heading towards being an older spinster.  Disappointed in love, she now lives a quiet life in her late parents’ house in an unfashionable, even distant suburb of London. As with many other books, some of whose characters turn up in this novel, there is another woman who feels the sadness of love. These are not tragedies, as Dulcie’s new aquaintance Viola elegantly suffers the frustrations of unrequited love, and Laurel discovers the possibilities. There is an absurd man in the form of Dr Alwyn Forbes, impressed with himself, yet always wondering about the women around him. There is also a clergyman, floating around in a tatty cassock, not quite getting the point. This 1961 novel is full of the light touches of women working within their worlds, but this is a book which goes further afield than some of the others into areas of London that have associations for characters that prove to be otherwise, as well as a further journey of discovery for some, which provide a meeting of plot as well as some of the central people of the story. This is a book of realistic clothes, disappointing meals, indexing and researching, of odd books turning up and paintings which typify life. A gentle book of confusions, embarrassments, and little hints of the lives of women and some men as they contemplate others and their expectations. A book of acute observations and faded lives, this is a slightly sadder novel in Pym’s output, but still captures something of Dulcie’s curiosity about those around her, beyond the indexes.

 

The novel begins with three characters all slightly out of their comfort zone. Dulcie is attending a conference of those who work in publishing, but not those who have the glamour of racy bestselling novels, but rather the mechanics of indexes, of editing and small bits of research. She meets the languid Viola, an admirer of Alwyn, possibly affecting even his marriage to the disappointing Marjorie, whose interest in the conference centred around his scheduled lecture, “Some problems of an editor”. It is notable that more than one of the lectures is entitled “Some Problems of…”, as if the important but unexciting topics of indexes and editing are apologetically handled. The evening meal, as many of the carefully described meals throughout the book, is colourless and unexciting, even though Dulcie and to an extent Viola have some hopes of it.

 

The relationships as established at the conference go forwards into the rest of the novel, as other characters are discovered rather than firmly laid down, and is propelled by Dulcie’s gentle researches and accidental discoveries. Her hopes for her young niece Laurel’s influence on her rather quiet home do not come to pass in the way she expected, whereas her unexpected lodger becomes a vague partner in her unusual researches into the life and times of a man for whom a small stone squirrel  becomes a talisman of a past time and attraction. The set pieces of Dulcie’s unwilling witnessing of a sort of confrontation, of a shy florist who takes surprising action, and a dinner party which brings together some strange friends all contribute to a life where a particular form of love will not be returned, but nothing is impossible. 

 

This is a Pym that Husband acquired because I couldn’t find any more on my double banked and tough to access books. As I mentioned before, I’m struggling to access A – H because of my daughter’s house contents being shoved in that room. The limited space for the letter P is stuffed rather full with Ellis Peters (especially Brother Cadfael) Elizabeth Peters (Amelia Peabody) and Jean Plaidy (many, many historical novels) . I am still searching for Pym – maybe they are being shy and retiring….?

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer – a well known and brilliantly written historical romance

These Old Shades (Alastair-Audley, #1) by Georgette Heyer

These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

 

Historical romance of the Regency period has never been written better than by Georgette Heyer, who in some ways initiated the genre. In this book she demonstrates her skill in creating memorable characters, setting and a detailed,  wonderful plot. It is well known that her research was not only impeccable but ongoing, and when this book was written in 1926 she did not have the benefit of as many research options as today’s authors, who yet still get things wrong! The story is a little complicated, and it depends on personalities, a delicate social world which must be negotiated, and journeys between Britain and France. Heyer’s confident handling of her material adds consistency to the character’s behaviour, while she appreciates every detail of dress which plays an important part in this particular book. She revels in the details which have much to do with the construction of the image of several characters during the book, and while there several twists and turns here, the gender issue is well explored. I really enjoyed reading this mature and exciting novel.

 

The novel begins with the languid Justin Alastair, the Duke of Avon, who discovers and buys a boy, Leon, who he resolves to keep as a page. This is regarded as strange and even conceited behaviour by several friends and acquaintances, especially Hugh Davenant, but overall Avon is notorious for outrageous behaviour and affecting strange behaviour. He is a wealthy man with a past, but Leon seems to be devoted to him. When they travel to England, Avon reveals he knows more about Leon than he is willing to divulge at this point. When Leonie is forced to appear, her behaviour and dress becomes a bone of contention with his sister Fanny who he seeks out to help him with his ward. She is the first person who is brought into a circle of friends and family who seek to help, and the dialogue with which they speak is funny and entertaining. An adventure in which a horse is stolen and sold, an evil drink is consumed and a “pig – person” behaves badly, is exciting and a little frightening for a young woman and an otherwise dissolute young man. A plan must be formed for a launch into society and the glorious description of balls, parties and clothes ensues.

 

This is a book of an author writing at the height of her powers. The main characters are well drawn and consistent and the humour which pervades the conversations between a group of friends is very funny; I was particularly amused by the references to Mr Manners, angry ex-owner of a stolen horse, “who will be satisfied with nothing less than our lives” as Avon grimly observes in jest. Tiles and names are important in this book, but the characters are suitably different from each other even in the French aristocracy to be understandable. It is a book with real depth, with the clever suggestion that even less than central characters have a backstory. It has a real plot and is enormously entertaining. The characters are engaging and the settings realistic. I really enjoyed this book, and recommend it as a wonderful example of an historical romance.

 

When life gets tough, it is wonderful to find a comfort read, or reread. I have not read Heyer’s book for several years, when family issues meant I needed an ongoing distraction. I had bought a few of her books, and borrowed others, so I have never being sure if I had a full set or if I had read them all. Some of my copies are a bit tricky to get to at the moment, so some one gave me some to read. As I am trying to review a book a day at the moment I thought that this really enjoyable book deserved a post, if only for my own interest, and I hope that it is perhaps a reminder of the skill and talent of this very special author.

Eileen – The Making of George Orwell by Sylvia Topp – the woman behind the scenes

 

This is certainly the book which will form the definitive biography of Eileen O’Shaughnessy, first wife of the author who adopted the name George Orwell. It is definitive because it has taken every scrap of information that can be probably found about a woman who died at the tragically early age of thirty – nine, who had packed a lot into those years. An Oxford graduate in the early days of women being tolerated at University, and able as a writer and typist, she turned her considerable literary talents into helping, editing and promoting the work of two Erics, her brother who was a noted surgeon, and Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell. 

 

This book puts forward descriptions of this attractive and intelligent woman who chose to subsume her own talents under the pressure of the career of the author of such books as “Animal Farm” to which she may well contributed ideas just before her death.  She undoubtedly was the person who worked hard to ensure the well being and writing of a husband who demanded trying living arrangements while struggling with his own health. She was the first to type up the manuscript of “The Road to Wigan Pier”, and she was part of Orwell’s Spanish adventure which was behind the book “Homage to Catalonia”. Much more than merely a muse or inspiration, she took on the job of working on the text of the books, typing, suggesting and improving manuscripts. Topp is to be congratulated on her sterling work in tracking down every scrap of information about this brilliant woman, and combining it into an immensely readable book. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this extremely successful book.

 

This book looks at the immediate ancestors of Eileen, the places she lived, and the influences on a girl who was typically Head Girl and House captain at school. On going to Oxford in 1924, Topp has tried to capture what it was actually like for the tiny number of women attending the University in this period. She has gathered all the available comments on her academic work, showing that she was certainly gifted and hard working. Her life after graduation lacked a certain direction, but she was generally admired and succeeded in every post she held, even running a typists’ agency. Her fateful meeting with the slightly strange Eric Blair was certainly memorable for him, as he apparently decided that she exactly fulfilled his requirements for a wife, despite his other attachments to various women. He is shown to be self centred and demanding, though undoubtedly quickly devoted to his vivacious and much admired young woman. Their wedding challenged expectations, as well as the demands of the somewhat primitive cottage that they embarked on sharing with many visitors. The rigid timetable that Blair/ Orwell adopted meant a lot of hard physical work, which she only abandoned when she chose to follow him to a dangerous war torn Spain. While it is highly likely that she did not live a lonely life in Barcelona according to Topp’s painstaking investigations, she was extremely active in transporting the badly wounded Blair from a dangerous Spain where he became a hunted man. Her life when they returned to Britain was obviously sadly affected by the outbreak of war and the loss of her much loved brother Eric. When in became obvious that the couple were unable to have children naturally, the adoption of a baby, Richard, added to the pressure on a woman already in weakened health. Her much mourned and sudden death obviously had a stong effect on a man who was established as an author, significantly resulting from her efforts. 

 

This is a book which is the product of so much painstaking research, yet the insightful writing makes it a pleasure to read. I recommend this book not only to those interested in Orwell, but also those interested in women who were subject to the challenges and changes of the mid twentieth century.     

 

This is a fascinating book and has been quite a weighty tome on my excellent book trollies, which have given me the opportunity to store my books to read and review in a sensible way. Thanks to Harry who tracked them down and presented them for birthday and Christmas presents ( They are from Hobbycraft by the way – mint green by choice!)