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The Flight Of The Maidens [Paperback]

Jane Gardam
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Oct 2001

This delightful novel describes the post-war summer of 1946 - and follows the growing-up of three young women in the months between leaving school and taking up their scholarships at university. Una Vane, whose widowed mother runs a hairdressing salon in her front room ('Maison Vane Glory - Where Permanent Waves are Permanent'), goes bicycling with Ray, the boy who delivers the fish and milk. Hetty Fallowes struggles to become independent of her possessive, loving, tactless mother. And Lieselotte Klein, who had arrived in 1939 on a train from Hamburg, uncovers tragedy in the past and magic in the present.

Rooted in the north of England, THE FLIGHT OF THE MAIDENS is peopled with extraordinary characters, who are evoked with all the humour, compassion and eye for detail that mark Jane Gardam as one of Britain's most gifted and original novelists.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (4 Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349114242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349114248
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 144,085 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Gardam has been awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for a lifetime's contribution to the enjoyment of literature; has twice won a Whitbread Award and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Jane Gardam has captured the burgeoning renaissance of post-war Britain in her novel The Flight of the Maidens. Writing with her usual deft and sensitive touch, she follows the lives and loves of three girls, Hetty, Una and Lieselotte, who are in transition from home to university in the Yorkshire of 1946. All three have suffered some fallout from war but have achieved academic success and have been offered university scholarships. Before they begin their studies, however, they have additional emotional lessons to learn.

Gardam explores the life and development of each character in turn, and projects the reader into a vivid post-war reality. Hetty loves her battle-scarred father--now the local gravedigger--who haunts the locale, but she yearns to escape the clutches of her possessive mother and finds temporary solace with an intelligent but dull lance corporal. Una goes cycling with Ray, the boy who used to deliver fish, as she forms her first relationship with a male after the suicide of her father--someone who was also a victim of an affliction called "war". Silent Lieselotte, a Jew from Hamburg who was on the last refugee train out, visits York, London and America as she searches for her family and roots, encountering a myriad of memorable experiences (the images of a bombed London are particularly startling and evocative).

Gardam paints scenes like a watercolour and every stroke adds depth and subtlety. The characters are rounded and appealing and humour often bubbles beneath the surface:

"...At that Yalta business, they were all wearing aprons"
"Well, travel rugs, even that Stalin, whom I cannot like, I'm afraid, whatever they say about him being a Colostomy."
Most of all, Jane Gardam has rendered a convincing and touching insight into the lives of people, still dealing with universal concerns, who are bravely forging a future in an uncertain reality. --Christina McLoughlin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A formidably intelligent, gentle, comic genius ... In a hundred years she will be read as Mrs Gaskell is read (A. N. Wilson SPECTATOR)

Gardam ... has written another jewel. This tale of the three young women is made with a concentrate of humour and compassion. Gardam is a brilliantly subtle comedian who can keep the reader enraptured until the last page (THE TIMES)

Jane Gardam has captured the burgeoning renaissance of post-war Britain in her novel THE FLIGHT OF THE MAIDENS. Writing with her usual deft and sensitive touch... Gardam paints scenes like a watercolour and every stroke adds depth and subtlety. The characters are rounded and appealing and humour often bubbles beneath the surface. (Christina McLoughlin, AMAZON.CO.UK REVIEW)

Gardam has a pleasant, accessible style well-suited to a reassuring tale of regeneration and optimism after adversity. (OBSERVER)

As a celebration of the rites of passage it rings diamond true. It is light, witty, sharp, yet understanding and sympathetic. It is also thoroughly enjoyable (SCOTSMAN)

Gardam blends memory and imagination, intellect and humour, to evoke unsentimentally a vanished England, setting it in the context of the wider world and capturing the bittersweet excitement of leaving childhood behind (DAILY TELEGRAPH)

Jane Gardam, as ever, shapes her narrative with wit and aplomb ... intelligent, inspiriting and entertaining (INDEPENDENT)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Excellent 13 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This is a beautiful example of Gardam's unique ability to inhabit the intense, muddled and vibrant world of the teenage mind. Reminiscent of 'A Long Way From Verona', with its war-time setting, 'The Flight of the Maidens', with its three central characters, broadens the focus - the story of Lieselotte's coming-to-terms with her origins is particularly appealing, while Hetty's ambivalence towards her mother comes across as painfully real. The broadening means the reader isn't obliged to see events from such an exclusive viewpoint as that offered in such novels as 'Crusoe's Daughter', and thus loses some of that book's weird intensity, but each character nonetheless lives vividly in the mind long after the book is over.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding Coming of Age Novel 19 April 2002
Gardam has done it again. Flight of the Maidens was an excellent read. She brings all the angst of being a young woman alive and I think everyone can find something of themself in this book. I am not sure if it betters A Long Way from Verona but with this calibre of writing you can't split hairs! Una and Hetty are amazing and utterly human characters, they question themselves the way every girl does. This is a book that keeps you company and gives moral support.
Thank you Ms Gardam you've made my day!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointing 8 Aug 2008
By hiljean VINE VOICE
Having read and loved "Bilgewater" I chose this Jane Gardam book for my book group, sure that it would be enjoyed by everyone. What a disappointment. Though Gardam is undoubtedly a fine writer this novel failed to satisfy. Exploring again the theme of coming of age, the story starts out with three heroines, Hetty, Una and Lieselotte (a Jewish refugee who arrives in the UK from Germany via kindertransport). The three girls then go their separate ways over the course of the summer holiday before starting university so the plot feels rather fragmented as the chapters deal with each of these girls and their experiences. They are not brought back together until the end of the book, as though Gardam suddenly realised she had some loose ends to tie up!

In parts their experiences tend to defy belief and enter the realms of fantasy, particularly Hetty's encounters with an aristocratic family fallen on hard times, and Lieselotte's brief stay with a wealthy new-found aunt in California. The main criticisms of the members of my group were that the plot seemed to be made up as it went along, and they didn't feel they got much out of the book. Our oldest member who remembers this period well (late 1940's, post-WW2) said that many of the period details were wrong. That worries me less, after all this is fiction, but I can see how that would irritate someone familiar with the era!

The main themes, apart from coming-of-age, are belonging, first loves, and leaving home, and there is a very heartfelt portrayal of a difficult mother-daughter relationship (reflecting perhaps Gardam's own problematic relationship with her mother, according to a Guardian interview). This was handled well and struck a chord with more than one of our members.

Jane Gardam is an imaginative and clever writer and because I so enjoyed Bilgewater (do read it!) I will try some of her others. So three stars for the quality of writing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars COMING OF AGE STORY SET IN 1946 BRITAIN 31 May 2012
This novel takes place in Northern England during the summer of 1946 and is centered around 3 young women in their late teens who, through competitive examinations, have won scholarships to elite universities (Cambridge and the University of London). Two of them - Hetty Fellowes and Una Vane - were childhood friends. The third --- Lieselotte Klein --- is a German Jew from Hamburg who was fortunate enough to escape to Britain via the Kindertransport shortly before the outbreak of war in 1939. She was brought to the town where Hetty and Una lived, attended school with them, and lived with a Quaker family. However, after a prolonged search to see if any of her family survived the Holocaust, Lieselotte moves to London, where she is placed with an Austrian Jewish couple, the Feldmans. The novel gives the reader a view into the lives of Hetty, Una, and Lieselotte, who each embark upon a voyage of self-discovery as the summer melts into autumn. Each experiences a rite of passage that tests their resolve to forge a future largely of their own making in a chaotic world struggling to learn anew the ways of peace.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Typical quirky story 9 Aug 2007
Jane Gardam is so readable. Each novel I've read of hers offers quirky characters with northern humour. The language is idiomatic but accessible and the author leads her readers into a dark, funny world. The Flight of the Maidens is well-researched yet doesn't wear its wartime history heavily. I recommend it.
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