Sunday, 2 August 2009

The finest type of English womanhood (Heath)

A quick review of this wonderful book - some of you may have spotted it on the library pile when I posted about my various TBR piles a couple of weeks ago, and I think Darlene mentioned that it looked like an interesting one. Well, absolutely definitely it is. I read it in one afternoon's sitting, and didn't get distracted.

This is two intertwined stories - the story of Laura and Gay - and comes out of a true story, the so called "Porthole murder" of 1947. The story of Gay is told through her diaries and Laura tells her own story, until their lives intertwine, and Laura becomes the main narrator, telling Gay's story too. The two encountered each other in Johannesburg; Laura had ended up here after being swept off her feet and marriage to a man who she barely knows, and Gay has arrived through her struggles to make a break as an actress. The first part of the book introduces us to the characters and how they end up there, and then we go on into the more eventful sections of the book where their paths have crossed through Laura's husband Paul, who has abandoned Laura for Gay, and then abandons both of them. The plot becomes thicker as the pair catch the boat back to England and the novel reaches its horrifying conclusion.

As well as being a gripping read, the book is also an extremely good depiction of both Britain in the immediate post-war period and Africa just before apartheid.

I think this would be a very good book-group book - there is lots to discuss.


  1. Sold! Thanks for the review Verity, I've been dying to hear from someone that's read this book. I confess to being sucked in by the gorgeous cover and wanted to know more about the content before plunking down money for it. Can't wait to pick it up now - thanks!

  2. Definitely get it - I made myself read it as it had been sitting there for a while and remembered you being interested.

  3. I placed an order on The Book Depository as soon as I finished my comment. The paperback version is coming out in 185 days to be exact but I couldn't wait that long...and the cover isn't quite as nice:)

  4. Sounds wonderful! I've made a mini-resolution not to buy any more books for a while though...must whittle down that tbr pile.

  5. Hello,

    Strange query. I work for Rachel Heath's publisher. We have copies of her new book in and are looking for bloggers who enjoy her writing to send copies to. If you're interested, please do drop me an email at



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