Clarissa Dalloway is a woman of high-society – vivacious, hospitable and sociable on the surface, yet underneath troubled and dissatisfied with her life in post-war Britain. This disillusionment is an emotion that bubbles under the surface of all of Woolf’s characters in Mrs Dalloway. Centred around one day in June where Clarissa is preparing for and holding a party, her interior monologue mingles with those of the other central characters in a stream of consciousness, entwining, yet never actually overriding the pervading sense of isolation that haunts each person. One of Virginia Woolf’s most accomplished novels, Mrs Dalloway is widely regarded as one of the most revolutionary works of the 20th century in its style and the themes that it tackles. The sense that Clarissa has married the wrong person, her past love for another female friend and the death of an intended party guest all serve to amplify this stultifying existence.
Coward! Sneak! May good men shun him, from henceforth! may his Queen refuse to receive him! You, an earl's daughter! Oh, Isabel! How utterly you have lost yourself!' When the aristocratic Lady Isabel abandons her husband and children for her wicked seducer, more is at stake than moral retribution. Ellen Wood played upon the anxieties of the Victorian middle classes who feared a breakdown of the social order as divorce became more readily available and promiscuity threatened the sanctity of the family. In her novel the simple act of hiring a governess raises the spectres of murder, disguise, and adultery. Her sensation novel was devoured by readers from the Prince of Wales to Joseph Conrad and continued to fascinate theatre-goers and cinema audiences well into the next century.
In 1903, a young Scotswoman named Mary Mackenzie sets sail for China to marry her betrothed, a military attachE in Peking. But soon after her arrival, Mary falls into an adulterous affair with a young Japanese nobleman, scandalizing the British community. Casting her out of the European community, her compatriots tear her away from her small daughter. A woman abandoned and alone, Mary learns to survive over forty tumultuous years in Asia, including two world wars and the cataclysmic Tokyo earthquake of 1923.
Clarissa was born into wealth and privilege, as a child, shooting and hunting were the norm and pigeons were flown in from Cairo for supper. Her mother was an Australian heiress, her father was a brilliant surgeon to the Royal family. But he was also a tyrannical and violent drunk who used to beat her and force her to eat carrots with slugs still clinging to them. Clarissa was determined and clever, though, and her ambition led her to a career in the law. At the age of 21, she was the youngest ever woman to be called to the Bar. Disaster struck when her adored mother died suddenly. It was to lead to a mind-numbing decade of wild over-indulgence. Rich from her inheritance, in the end Clarissa partied away her entire fortune. It was a long, hard road to recovery along which Clarissa finally faced her demons and turned to the one thing that had always brought her joy - cooking. Now at last she has found success, sobriety and peace. With the stark honesty and the brilliant wit we love her for, Clarissa recounts the tale of a life lived to extremes. A vivid and funny story, it is as moving as it is a cracking good read.
In this follow up to CALL THE MIDWIFE, Jennifer Worth, a midwife working in the docklands area of East London in the 1950s tells more stories about the people she encountered. There's Jane, who cleaned and generally helped out at Nonnatus House - she was taken to the workhouse as a baby and was allegedly the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat. Peggy and Frank's parents both died within 6 months of each other and the children were left destitute. At the time, there was no other option for them but the workhouse. The Reverend Thornton-Appleby-Thorton, a missionary in Africa, visits the Nonnatus nuns and Sister Julienne acts as matchmaker. And Sister Monica Joan, the eccentric ninety-year-old nun, is accused of shoplifting some small items from the local market. She is let off with a warning, but then Jennifer finds stolen jewels from Hatton Garden in the nun's room. These stories give a fascinating insight into the resilience and spirit that enabled ordinary people to overcome their difficulties.
Jennifer Worth came from a sheltered background when she became a midwife in the Docklands in the 1950s. The conditions in which many women gave birth just half a century ago were horrifying, not only because of their grimly impoverished surroundings, but also because of what they were expected to endure. But while Jennifer witnessed brutality and tragedy, she also met with amazing kindness and understanding, tempered by a great deal of Cockney humour. She also earned the confidences of some whose lives were truly stranger, more poignant and more terrifying than could ever be recounted in fiction. Attached to an order of nuns who had been working in the slums since the 1870s, Jennifer tells the story not only of the women she treated, but also of the community of nuns (including one who was accused of stealing jewels from Hatton Garden) and the camaraderie of the midwives with whom she trained. Funny, disturbing and incredibly moving, Jennifer's stories bring to life the colourful world of the East End in the 1950s.
Perry L. Crandall knows what it's like to be an outsider. With an IQ of 76, he's an easy mark. Before his grandmother died, she armed Perry well with what he'd need to know: the importance of words and writing things down, and how to play the lottery. Most importantly, she taught him whom to trust - a crucial lesson for Perry when he wins the multimillion-dollar jackpot. As his family descends, moving in on his fortune, his fate and his few true friends, he has a lesson for them: never ever underestimate Perry L. Crandall.
Imagine an alternative England, where the Church controls the country and non-believers have been exiled to a remote island. On the Island, a fierce group of boys patrols the community, searching for signs of faith and punishing any believers. When a new girl appears, arriving from the mainland to search for her long-lost mother, the gang is split: one boy falls in love with her, another seeks violent revenge. The struggle between them will change everything.
Now that "Sudden Rain" has come out of its hiding place -- in Wolff's refrigerator, found after her death -- it remains gloriously frozen in time. Set in the fall of 1972, the novel perfectly captures, with expansive emotion and cinematic detail, the domestic trends of three generations of middle-class couples living in suburban Los Angeles. A brilliant portrait of its burgeoning era, "Sudden Rain "also offers striking cultural commentary on our everyday notions of love and marriage; individuality, equality, and community; and the promise and pursuit of the American Dream."
In 1968, in a remote part of Canada, a mysterious child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor girl, but both at once. Only three people share the secret - the baby's parents and a trusted neighbour. Together the adults make a difficult decision: to go through surgery and raise the child as a boy named Wayne. But as Wayne grows up within the hyper-male hunting culture of his father, his shadow-self - a girl he thinks of as 'Annabel' - is never entirely extinguished, and indeed is secretly nurtured by the women in his life. As Wayne approaches adulthood, and its emotional and physical demands, the woman inside him begins to cry out. The changes that follow are momentous not just for him, but for the three adults that have guarded his secret.