by Frances Osborne (Virago) ISBN 9 781844 084784
London. 1914. Lady Masters is head of one of those establishments who insists life is about service and duty. Those were the days when you tiptoed because to make a noise when you walked was absolutely “not done'’ by the well-bred young women who must never marry beneath themselves. The suffragettes are on the march and war looms. Two young women dream of breaking free from tradition and obligation.
Bea gets crushed against the railings in the crowd that masses toward Mrs Pankhurst. Mrs Pankhurst’s war is to free women who are considered chattels. Bea meets an unsuitable man in the crowd. You can hardly breathe at the descriptions of the pushing and shoving crowd.
Below stairs in the establishment is Grace, whose family thinks she is a secretary, not a chamber maid. She can’t find enough money to send home. She falls pregnant and vanishes.
The war comes with all its agony. Everyone has to help. This is a book you don’t want to put down and when you finish it you feel as though your life has gone back centuries. I tiptoed to the bookshelf to put it away gently. Osborne is brilliant at descriptions of the suffragettes and the terror of war. She captures the relationships of the era perfectly.
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