London, 1947. No sense of victory, and little let-up in the daily grind, but just the beginnings of hope for the future. Maureen Hollard works in a cafe with the over-attentive Spillar. Bored and frustrated, but loyal to her family, she feels a life more interesting than her own – one with a bit of romance and glamour – must exist, but does she dare go in search of it? Her son Jack is the first in the family to have the chance of university, and has outgrown his drab parents. He is also in love for the first time, with Silvia. Perce, Maureen's husband, fears he may be in for a humdrum life without promotion, proud of his bright son but fearful of being shown up by him. Round the corner, Frenchman Pierre-Henri lies low, aware that the past may be about to catch up with him, and has a bag packed just in case...
Alan Brownjohn is author of three previous novels. The Way You Tell Them won the Authors' Club prize for most promising debut novel, 1990. The Long Shadows, 1997, was chosen by Jonathan Coe as a book of the year in the New Statesman, and was followed in 2001 by A Funny Old Year. He is a leading poet who has published twelve individual and three collected editions, the most recent in 2006. In 2007 he received a lifetime achievement award from the Books Committee of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain. He has edited poetry collections with Seamus Heaney and Maureen Duffy, and produced versions of classic dramas by Goethe and Corneille for the National Theatre, BBC Radio 3 and the Lyric, Hammersmith.
'Wise, witty and steadfast, Alan Brownjohn is one of the most reliably enjoyable of writers.'
'Without resort to impasto period colour Alan Brownjohn evokes…lower-middle-class suburban southeast London during the notorious winter of 1946–7 and the glorious summer that followed. The insular, timid post-war world he conjures is engrossing. The gradations of social hierarchy are delicately etched. The routines, mores, hopes and petty deceptions of "ordinary" people are described in minute detail. But this is only incidentally a work of anthropology. It is a cautiously dramatic fiction whose understated climax is shocking because of the temperate milieu in which it occurs.'
'An extraordinarily intimate, pitch-perfect recreation of not only the very taste and smell of austerity Britain but the whole sensibility of an era.'
DAVID KYNASTON, AUTHOR OF AUSTERITY BRITAIN
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