I feel as if I know the author and her family after reading this. What fantastic powers of recall she has, and I feel almost as if I've lived her life as she's recounted it. I certainly saw it all in my mind's eye as if I'd been there. A certain amount of it from the late fifties on is familiar from my own memories (I share an alarming number of decades with her). However, what is most refreshing is to have it all recounted by someone with such acute powers of observation and such an astute ability to assess the significance of what she was seeing, alongside the purely personal memories. It's a truly valuable overview of twentieth century history and social history, and so much more valuable for being from the viewpoint of a down to earth `real' person who lived through such varied and difficult times at the sharp end, where the wool wasn't so easily pulled over the eyes. We can't have too many of this type of account, but in fact they are fewer and further between than they should be, and I don't think it is too much of an overstatement to say that this is an invaluable contribution to the nation's archives.
It was a truly inspired moment when Jean decided to write these memoirs to accompany her already extraordinary embroidery. I wonder how many other people in the past could have regaled us with similarly rich, varied and insightful stories, but never managed to acquire the confidence and self belief this lady has fought for and won. She so deserved to find the fulfilment and happiness in her later years that she did find, not least because she has the capacity to recognise it!
Above all, that embroidery, accomplished in such a relatively short time, and designed with such consummate economy and vision, is the real star of the show.
A last word however must be saved for the superb quality of the book's production by its publisher, which makes it a delight to hold and read and proves beyond all doubt that nothing can ever replace the pleasure of holding a `real' book in one's hands, and turning real pages with keen anticipation.