It is 1948 and the young and beautiful Marguerite Carter has lost her parents and survived a terrifying war, working for the SOE behind enemy lines.
She returns to England to be one of the first women to receive a degree from the University of Cambridge.
Now she pins back her unruly auburn curls, draws a pencil seam up her legs, ties the laces on her sensible black shoes, and sets out towards her future as an English teacher in a girls' grammar school.
Outside the classroom Britain is changing fast, and Miss Carter finds herself caught up in social upheaval, swept in and out of love and forging deep, enduring friendships.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 432 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
- Publication Date: 01/01/2015
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781408843604
- EPUB from £7.59
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Review by AdonisGuilfoyle
A potted history of post-war Britain in fictional form, actress Sheila Hancock's novel about crusading schoolteacher Marguerite Carter is a good read, but could have been so much better. From the blurb, I was expecting more about Marguerite's wartime service in France as an agent for the SOE, which actually comes towards the end of the book, rather than a hop, skip and jump through the decades, from the late 40s to early 2000s. Marguerite moves to London to teach, first at a grammar school and then one of those new-fangled comprehensives, forming a lifelong friendship with a gay colleague and inspiring countless children with a love of poetry. I could cheerfully have smacked her. Thanks to Sheila Hancock's copious historical reminiscences/research, Marguerite never develops from a literary device into a fully fledged character; instead, she remains an idealistic mash-up of Mr Chips and Mary Poppins. Marguerite marches on Aldermaston, gets her hair styled by Vidal Sassoon, votes for Margaret Thatcher, loses a friend to AIDs, gets older, and eventually comes full circle. Lots of doom, gloom and social commentary, but more history than story.