I had many reasons NOT to pick this one up –
• It was set in a time period that is not my idea of historical piece; I mean its post 1950 and everyone knows that my idea of history ends in 1945!
• It is about a girl who is jilted on her wedding day and her triumphs …well that’s a pretty regular plotline – heroine faces a challenge and comes through in a winning haze
• It’s about a small industrial town in England – no grand castles, no Cornwall, no carriages and characters a la Catherine De Burgh
But then Fleur had written some great reviews and I have never gone wrong with her taste in books; besides she was very emphatic that of all the Margaret Kennedy’s she read, including her most famous, The Constant Nymph, this is her best work! Besides something about the character about Lucy Carmichael was enchanting; this is how Michelle, her friend describes her – “She taught me how to enjoy myself … Lucy forced me to believe that I might be happy. I don’t expect I’d have had the courage to marry you, to marry anybody, if it hadn’t been for Lucy.” That’s a very different way to introduce the heroine than saying lovely eyes, brown lush curls and yada yada yada!
So I went to Amazon Kindle and requested to read a sample – within 10mins I had bought the book! It is one of my best read ever and I am so glad to have read and own a copy!
The book is set in post-World War II England and a major part of the story is set in a small industrial town of England. Lucy Carmichael is about to be married to Patrick Reilly, a very famous travel author, whom Michelle (A very likable and practical character) does not particularly trust or like but is happy for her best friend’s sake! Lucy as predicted is left at the alter and to get away from the pain and trauma, applies and gets a job at drama school and makes a huge success of it. She gets along very well with most of her colleagues and tries to innovate the regular affairs and bring excitement to the proceedings. Just as she is making a success of herself and is looked up kindly by Lady Francis, the patron and High God of the Council of the Institute, the politics and personal ambitions of people lead to some unfortunate incidents and Lucy resigns. She then moves to another small town and gets a job re-organizing a community center and makes a great job of it until, something else comes her way!
It’s a wonderful book with some simple story telling with much warmth and humor. There are many wonderful characters including Lucy and her friend Michelle, Lady Francis who embodies nobles oblige as well as some intriguing characters like Inthane and Angera Heim. The story telling is marvelous and the sensitivity is handled very well – there is no mopping wailing heroine, though her pain is just as real and very powerful; there is a careful detailing of transition of human emotions – how Stephen, Lucy’s brother, whom she always treated with scorn and scolding tries to be the man to look after his elder sister and how their relationship evolves. Then there is friendship that subsists and transmutes and still subsists between Michelle and Lucy – as one’s life changes and from the other and “first in confidence” position is given away willingly. The way one fears for a friend and yet may not always sees things clearly and all the ups and downs of friendships. And among all this, there is a gentle portrayal of a 1950s society with all its wonderful aspects – Lady Francis could always be generous and gracious, but her children caught between the old world of aristocrats and the new emerging society of equality and laborers unite, struggle between and try to find a foothold where they can be comfortable in their own skin. The class war is depicted at some many levels, but always subtly in the background without making the reader lose focus on Lucy, but at the same time driving home some truths of the society.
It’s a wonderful book and a great read! Would not miss it for the world!