Marriages Are Made in Bond Street: True Stories from a 1940's Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson

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Marriages Are Made in Bond Street: True Stories from a 1940's Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson

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Category: History
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: Two entrepreneurial young women set up a Marriage Bureau in wartime London and have an incredible success rate creating the perfect pairings.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 354 Date: March 2016
Publisher: Macmillan
ISBN: 9781447282624

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Audrey Parsons had no desire to marry. Her mother, however, had quite different ideas and was insistent that her daughter find a husband, as their would be no place for her at the family farm when she was older. Frustrated by her lack of options, Audrey bowed to pressure and went to stay with her uncle in India in the hope of finding a husband. When she arrived she was overwhelmed by all of the male attention she received. In the colonies, eligible women were few and far between and men were desperate for wives. Although she didn't find a husband, she hit upon an idea that would kill two birds with one stone: she would find wives for these lonely men, whilst at the same time creating a business that would allow her the financial independence she craved. The Marriage Bureau was born.

Audrey found a perfect business partner in ex-débutante Heather Lyon, who was sophisticated, worldly-wise and had a good head for business. As a young divorcee, she had no desire to rush into another marriage and the Marriage Bureau became her main focus. Together the two young women created a thriving business, which saw no end of clients streaming through the door in search of the perfect partner. The outbreak of war was surprisingly good for business; with young men seeking a bride before they went overseas and young women keen to grab a man before the inevitable shortage after the war.

Marriages are Made in Bond Street is a warm and affectionate memoir based on Heather's extensive client records. The bureau was amazingly successful, due to the personal care and attention lavished on each client. Matings were carefully planned, with compatibility judged on social status, income and religion. Some clients were easier to place than others, although even the most difficult individuals were eventually paired off with suitable partners. In one particularly humorous account, a journalist decided to test the bureau's skill by posing as a fake client. His request was very specific: he wanted to meet a five-foot Baptist who enjoyed cycling. Convinced that the bureau would never be able to fulfil such a bizarre request, he was shocked when the secretary produced a small, pink card with details of a client who was a Baptist, 5 foot 2 inches...interested in classical music, children, dogs, cycling and botany.

As well as heart-warming stories of partnerships made in heaven, there are also some tales of tragedy woven into the narrative. War inevitably took its toll and some of the newly-paired couples were cruelly torn apart. One especially sad story is about a man who found his perfect bride, but later committed suicide because his parents didn't approve of her. The young lady was left completely heartbroken and her subsequent letter to the bureau explaining what happened is an incredibly emotional read.

At the end of the book, we get a glimpse into the Bureau's files and the personal requirements of male and female clients between 1939-1949. It makes for very entertaining reading. For example, one lady insisted I do not like anyone called Longstaff, whereas one of the male clients insisted that his wife must be pretty or attractive facially and the only essential qualification: must have only one leg.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story of the Marriage Bureau and of the many couples whose lives were changed for the better because of it. It seems such a quaint idea today, but times were so different back then and the Bureau was very much a product of its time; a little slice of never-to-be-repeated history. Many thanks to the publishers for my copy of the book.

For further insight into life in Britain during the war, try How Britain Kept Calm and Carried On: Real-life stories from the Home Front by Anton Rippon, a beautiful tribute to those who kept calm and carried on.

Buy Marriages Are Made in Bond Street: True Stories from a 1940's Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Marriages Are Made in Bond Street: True Stories from a 1940's Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Marriages Are Made in Bond Street: True Stories from a 1940's Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Marriages Are Made in Bond Street: True Stories from a 1940's Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson at Amazon.com.

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