The Finest Type Of English Womanhood by Rachel Heath

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The Finest Type Of English Womanhood by Rachel Heath

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Buy The Finest Type Of English Womanhood by Rachel Heath at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The fictionalised background to the true story of the death of an actress. A compelling first novel which is definitely recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Windmill Books
ISBN: 978-0099532743

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It was just after the end of the Second World War and seventeen year old Laura Trelling was at a loose end in her Sussex village. She didn't really fit in with the other young people and her eccentric parents were becoming more and more isolated, to the extent that Laura was embarrassed by their carelessness of her welfare. A chance encounter with Paul Lovell was to change everything and before long she was on her way to a South Africa not yet burdened with apartheid.

During the war Gay Gibson was desperate to escape Birkenhead and the threat of going to secretarial college. At sixteen she knew that she wanted to be a star and she too went to South Africa. The girls' paths crossed in Johannesburg and Laura – still somewhat naïve – was drawn into Gay's wild life. Their agendas were different and the consequences fatal.

The novel is based on the true story of the disappearance of the real Gay Gibson (en route from South Africa to England) from her first class cabin on the Durban Castle in October 1947. Steward James Camb was later convicted in what became known as The Porthole Murder. In itself this would make a fascinating story but Heath's genius is to tell us what happened in the years before Gay Gibson's death and how Laura Trelling's chance encounter with Paul Lovell was to have such tragic consequences. It's a compelling and completely believable story.

Rachel Heath judges the pace of the story to perfection. There's never a dull moment – even Laura's stagnation in Sussex has a sense of being but a step on an inevitable journey - and when combined with Heath's talent for evoking the atmosphere of post-war Britain and the warmer climes of South Africa the book becomes un-put-downable.

With first novels there's usually a weakness – good characters tend to be offset by weaknesses in other areas, but it's difficult to say that Heath hasn't got it all spot on. There's real suspense in the plot and despite knowing what was to happen to Gay Gibson I read long into the night and was still surprised by the outcome. There's a twist or two there that I really wasn't expecting. I liked Laura and she stayed with me long after the end of the book and I found myself wondering how she was getting on. I was less enamoured of Gay but the combination of her and Laura is little short of macabre.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy John the Revelator by Peter Murphy and Family Album by Penelope Lively.

Buy The Finest Type Of English Womanhood by Rachel Heath at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Finest Type Of English Womanhood by Rachel Heath at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Finest Type Of English Womanhood by Rachel Heath at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Finest Type Of English Womanhood by Rachel Heath at Amazon.com.

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