Rose (17) and her older sister Diana are left unchaperoned after their aunt is taken ill, but decide to hide the fact from their actor mother, off on a tour. The cottage they are renting was owned by “Mad Hilda” whose diary Rose finds. It turns out that Hilda had a child before she was married. Her rigid parents had her locked up in an asylum for nearly ten years and the baby taken away and adopted. Diana helps out in the village and becomes quite a popular figure, while Rose grows closer to two boys, Derry and Alec, and starts to write her first book.
Told in the author’s usual style, the book manages to keep a wider story going while focusing on the thoughts of the main character. The story portrays one young woman’s struggle to find her own way, in spite of her well-meaning family and friends, and reflects the obstacles put in the way of another woman, treated cruelly by her own family. The author portrays the social attitudes partly brought about by the demands of war: society’s expectations for unmarried mothers; the wholesale disapproval of the GIs by the upper class; the care which Rose’s school takes to protect its pupils from some forms of literature (versus the effect it has when Rose reads it in Alec’s bookshop). All of these and more are held up for consideration. In a book where most of the main characters are female, there is a certain amount of indelicacy, especially when Dot, an unmarried mother and the girls’ friend, gives birth in their cottage with only Rose to help. Rose makes love with Derry, believing him to be going off to fight, and then later with Alec, feeling the warmth of his welcome to her.
Tim Golden is a computer programmer living in London. He is also the editor of the Good-to-Read website.