Sunday, 13 March 2016

Review of a Very Large Book + A.N Other

Because of our extra long and frustrating wait to move house, and with most of my possessions packed in boxes I've had plenty of time for reading, both at home and when sitting around in the hospital waiting for Col.

This is the biggest book I've read for a while - 712 pages!

Simon Garfield first came across Jean Lucey Pratt via the Mass Observation Archives He used her MO diaries for his books We Are at War, Private Battles and Our Hidden Lives with her name being changed to Maggie Joy Blunt. Through this he heard of her niece who had a collection of Jean's diaries written between 1925 and 1986. Eventually he was able to use them for this book.
Product Details
712 pages
Born in 1909, Jean's mother died when she was 13 and from that time she longed for love. The book is the very frank writings of a single woman who is never really happy, searching for fulfillment, living at a time when life for a spinster is difficult.She begins qualification as an architect, works in the office of  an aluminium manufacturing factory during the war but really wants to write and does indeed eventually have one book published. She wants companionship but longs to be on her own. As other reviewers on Amazon say - you want to give her a shake, get really cross with her but also sympathise, and you just have to keep reading. The men she falls for are always married/ rotten, her friends seem to drag her down. She laments the fact that she is among the surplus woman due to so many men being killed during the two wars. Her brother is abroad for most of the years of the diary but she does become a school holiday guardian for her niece although I wasn't really sure that she enjoyed this. Wee Cottage is the home she rents  in Burnham Beeches, Buckinghamshire  where she cares for cats, gardens and writes. Needing an income she starts to run a small bookshop and specialises in books about cats becoming the leading expert on this subject. One thing I discovered from this book is that artificial "e" cigarettes are nothing new. They were around in the 50s under a trade name when Jean tried desperately to give up her expensive smoking addiction. They didn't work for her and it was only many years later when ill health forced her to give up her 30 a day habit.
I would have liked to go back to Garfield's books listed above to re-read which parts of her diary he used, especially the wartime entries which are much shortened for this new book. Unfortunately they are all packed in boxes so that will have to wait, but I will add this book to my wish list because it's one to keep and read again.
By coincidence the next book I picked to read from my library haul was "Superfluous Women" by Carola Dunn. This is the 22nd in her series of historical crime mysteries featuring The Hon. Daisy Dalrymple. In this book the superfluous women of the title are 3 single friends -one a friend of Daisy,- who move into a house and find a dead body in the locked cellar (as you do!) Like Jean the women are on their own because of the men/women in-balance after WW1. These books are light crime fiction, they don't take long to read but seem to be well researched. At the back of the book the author acknowledges and thanks Virginia Nicholson for the information she gleaned from her book "Singled Out -  the story of the 2 million women who never became wives".
Another book for me to order from the library.

I see there are 2 new followers, so welcome  to 'Elsie May and Bertha' and 'Kenneth and Kaye'.

I will be back soon with moving/not moving news


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