Genre: Historical fiction
Seventeen-year-old Constance has had a privileged upbringing in Clapham, with staff to attend to her every need. But her parents have always been cold and distant, never showing her love.
Craving affection, Constance falls into the arms of Albie Jones, the cook’s grandson. But one fateful encounter leaves her ashamed and pregnant, and she is soon shunned from the family home.
Heartbroken and threatened by scandal, Constance is forced to wed Albie and moves to Battersea, where she suffers unforgiving stares and cruel whispers from the neighbours. Trapped in a bitter and loveless marriage without a penny to her name, Constance has no choice but to stay and surrender. Will she ever find freedom – or happiness – again?
My verdict: A beautiful book about a women from the upper classes who has lived a very sheltered life has her head turned by the first person who shows an interest in her. Kitty writes so well that you feel as though you are in the book alongside Constance. Kitty writes with such vividness and passion showing the contrast between the upper class and working class. The book takes place in the sixties after years of austerity due to war and shows the slow change in attitudes towards women and their role. Kitty Neale doesn’t pretend that life is indeed a fairytale and through Constance’s journey of self discovery and metamorphosis from timid daughter to self sufficient woman shows us through Penny and the cook Ethel’s daughter the that the attitude towards unmarried women was one of damnation and prejudice. This book also tackles race, alcoholism and the idea that homosexuality was something that was widely discouraged and not talked about. The book also deals with attitudes towards premarital sex and how attitudes were different depending on your gender and that sex was purely for procreation and essential in a marriage. Overall the book is beautifully written, warm and in parts heart wrenching. It made me appreciate how attitudes have changed and are more relaxed compared to that time period. Ultimately the book is about being trapped and unable to live your life the way you want to and all because of your gender or class. I applaud Kitty for also writing about the beginnings of women’s refuges, something that in most sagas are ignored. Fans of Call The Midwife, Lynda Page, Elaine Everest, Dilly Court and Annie Groves will love this Historical drama.