It is 1948 and Britain is struggling to recover from the Second World War. Half French, half English, Marguerite Carter, young and beautiful, has lost her parents and survived a terrifying war, working for the SOE behind enemy lines. Leaving her partisan lover 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, belts her grey gabardine mac and sets out towards her future as an English teacher in a girls’ grammar school. For Miss Carter has a mission – to fight social injustice, to prevent war and to educate her girls.
Through deep friendships and love lost and found, from the peace marches of the fifties and the flowering of the Swinging Sixties, to the rise of Thatcher and the battle for gay rights, to the spectre of a new war, Sheila Hancock has created a powerful, panoramic portrait of Britain through
During a time when being a woman and achieving career goals is so difficult to even be allowed to do, this novel was gripping from the beginning.
Do you ever have those weeks, where you are in a reading slump and seem to be quite fussy on the random books you are reading and none seem to be leaving you with that ‘wow I read a great book’ feeling? This novel got me out of that.
As I’m writing this I’m currently at a page where the main character, Miss Carter is chatting with the sports teacher and explaining how she got turned down in university for a group project as she was “too damn attractive”.
It’s weird to think that your looks, being very good, can be a disadvantage to sexist pigs who think they can have you whenever they feel like it. And then use it against you for achieving your career and education goals.
I loved how Miss Carter dealt with her first class, I felt as if I’m along with her in this journey. It’s clear she aims to be an excellent teacher and during that time, for a woman to even achieve that is amazing because the distance they reach in doing so.
Her journey with the students, in particular Elsie I found to be really helpful. Dispute the head masters comments of how you can only help so much and you can’t help them all as family circumstances do take over, Miss Carter still tries her best and a glimmer of hope is seen as Elsie grows.
Circumstances where so difficult and different back then. I felt so sorry for Tony and for everyone between those who has had loved ones shot and those that had to overcome so many difficult situations which lead to where they are now. There’s sayings out there which go on about you have to overcome difficult obstacles in order to become stronger / the best version of yourself however I disagree. I think it’s perseverance, determination and hard work is how one becomes strong. Yes, it tends to involve difficult situations to overcome however I find if you have a goal in mind you can achieve and become a strong-willed person.
A great novel makes you think a lot and question the topics involved, at least that’s what I think when I end up loving a book. Some bits of this novel made me cry it was just so sad hearing some of the stories which I know would have happened to so many people in the world, today and throughout the ages especially with the wars going on.
Overall by the end of the novel I really enjoyed it as it was gripping and got to see characters grow as the novel progressed. The only bit I didn’t enjoy was that it felt as if the story never ended (took me a fortnight to finish) and the little breaks in the writing where the main character was having flashbacks of the war and the gruesome scenes it involved.