Miss Carter’s War is the first novel by Sheila Hancock, the highly regarded actress with a distinguished career covering film, television, theatre and radio. She has had previously published three autobiographical works, Ramblings of an Actress, The Two of Us, a bestseller about her marriage to John Thaw, and Just Me, a memoir of her life as a widow.
In Miss Carter’s War, the author takes us to the immediate period following the Second World War, by looking at the life and times of one individual, their aspirations and beliefs, through their relationships both platonic and romantic that forge their life up until the birth of the 21st Century.
The main character of the book , Marguerite Carter has survived traumatic experiences in occupied France which involved working for SOE. She had returned to England after the war to further her education and in 1948 becomes one of the first women to receive a degree from the University of Cambridge.
Miss Carter then becomes an English teacher in a girls’ grammar school, and what follows is a wonderful graphical insight of how war weary Britain begins to deal with the dilemma of trying to re-establish its once pre-eminent place in the world.
Part of her mission is to change the world for herself and her ‘girls’ which means getting involved with many of the burgeoning movements including the peace marches in the 1950s, the battle for Women and Gay rights, and responding to the rise of the ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher.
But giving all her time to her friends and her causes, can she ever find true love for herself ?
Through the life of the remarkable Miss Carter, the book charts how the second half of the 20th Century drastically changes life in Britain from the austerity of post war Britain to the relative enlightenment to the way we live today.
As we follow Miss Carter through the burgeoning feminist movement and a new age of acceptance of difference, we gain insight into Miss Carter’s background and her own heroic past and guilty secrets.
Miss Carter may seem to be a ‘wonder woman’ to the modern reader, but the author embodies her with the very real sense of idealism prevalent after the war that propelled many people to want to ‘change the world’, the success of the Labour party over Churchill was a testament to how strong this feeling was. This idealism carried on into the sixties and led to a large number of successful movements. However the rise of Thatcher and the Iraq war were reminders that idealism can be sorely tested by world events.
This is a very ambitious book telling the story of a woman’s life within the framework of large scale developments in the wider society, however the author uses her considerable knowledge of the London in this period to give the book the air of authenticity. The book successfully reminds us about how far British society has moved in a relatively short time and how the various moves forward have been bought about often by the sacrifices of extraordinary ‘ordinary’ people.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Recommended
If you would like to find out more about the book or to buy a copy , visit the Bloomsbury website here
There will be a Bloomsbury Book Club Event with Sheila Hancock being
interviewed by Kate Mosse
Date: Thursday 23rd October
Time: Drinks at 6pm and talk at 6:30pm
Place: Bloomsbury Publishing, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP
Tickets: £25 including a hardback book or £10 without the book
Book tickets at www.bloomsburyinstitute.com
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