A Vision of Loveliness, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Jane James knows that she must have been born to better things than a dingy bedroom in her Aunt Doreen's house in Norbury and evenings spent eating gala pie and Heinz tinned potato salad in their 'sitting-cum-dining room'.

So, armed with her well-thumbed copy of Lady Be Good, she practises her French turns, her killer smile and precisely how much thigh to show when crossing her legs, and dreams of a time when she can be a part of the world she glimpses through the Mayfair windows of the cashmere shop where she works. When she finds a crocodile handbag left in a pub, it leads her to Suzy St John, a girl-about-town with the glamour, the confidence and the irresistible allure that Jane has been practising for so long.

Suzy takes Jane under her wing, and Jane becomes Janey, a near carbon-copy of her new best friend and a delighted adventurer in an easy, sleazy, sixties West-End world of part-time modelling and full-time man-trapping. Her new, improved self catwalks confidently through nightclubs, rag trade showrooms and luxury Mayfair flats but Jane finds that she can never quite drown out the carping voice of her past - or the nagging doubt that there might be slightly more to life than a mutation mink jacket or an engagement ring. When a shocking act of violence threatens to bring Jane's glittering new life crashing down around her she must call on all her powers of reinvention if her dyed-to-match stilettos are to carry her away unscathed.


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Louise Levene captures life in London in a 1960's version of Bridget Jones - my, we have come a long way from that society. Wonderfully detailed about food, clothing and attitudes to class. Jane James is both pitiable and admirable for her determination to change into 'a vision of loveliness' and when by chance she links up with Suzy St John you just know that things may take some dark turns. This was the world in which Christine Keeler and her pal Mandy Rice-Davies lived, a world of double standards, dubious morality and the petty snobbery for which the English lower middle-classes were famous. The story is sharp, funny and sad all at the same time. Although the period is before my time in the UK, some details were like Proust's madeleines - Goya bath cubes - I could practically smell them! This book is most definately NOT chick-lit, it is social satire at it's best. A most entertaining read.

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