It is the mid-1950s, and England is recovering from the ravages of the second world war. Penelope Wallace is 18 years old, and on the verge of a new and exciting life which starts when she encounters a girl named Charlotte, who quickly becomes Penelope’s best friend. Together with Charlotte’s sardonic and sarcastic cousin Harry, Penelope and Charlotte become involved in a whirlwind of parties and dinners, and things take an unusual turn when Henry asks Penelope to do him a huge favour.
In the midst of all this, Penelope has to deal with her beautiful mother, who is still grieving over the loss of her husband to the war; a once grand house that is now falling to rack and ruin, and her unrequited love for the pop singer Johnnie Ray…
I enjoyed this book very much. One of the reviews on the back of my copy states that if Jane Austen were alive now, this is the kind of book she would be writing, and I would tend to agree with that. it is a very charming story, and while it is not altogether unpredictable (although there were certainly a few surprises along the way), the real beauty of this story lies in the characters. The main characters are Penelope, Charlotte, Harry, Inigo (Penelope’s brother), Talitha (her mother) and Charlotte’s Aunt Clare. Each and every one of them is well drawn and very believable. Moreover, they are characters who I came to really enjoy getting to know throughout the story.
The writing is lovely – clean and never over fussy, but still managing to describe perfectly the time period in which the book is set, and the old house which the Wallace family live in (where a lot of the story is set).
It is also very amusing in parts – the author has a sharp eye for wit, and infuses her narrator (Penelope) with a wry sense of humour.
I’m not a huge fan of chick-lit, but if this book falls into that category, it certainly is one of the best examples I have read of this genre. It’s perfect for curling up with on a cold day and losing yourself in for a couple of hours. I will certainly be looking out for more work by this author.