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All The Nice Girls Paperback – 5 Mar 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; PROOF edition (5 Mar. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844086003
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844086009
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 13.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,721,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


A poignant and pleasurable novel'. SUNDAY TIMES Penny Perrick ('Bakewell delivers a warm, good humoured story of wartime relationships and a thrilling account of life and death on the convoys' GUARDIAN Rachel Hore)

Marvellously exciting, heartbreaking, gruelling and an unexpectedly muscular and masculine treat in the middle of what is essentially a wistful romance . . . the outcome is poignant, romantic, deeply satisfying' DAILY EXPRESS Jennifer Selway ('A beautifully evocative novel, full of romance, tragedy and the pull of family bonds'. SUNDAY EXPRESS Jane Clinton 4 stars)

A strong, romantic plot and believable well-realised characters . . . Bakewell for the Booker' READERS (DIGEST A N Wilson)

Bakewell conjures up a cracking wartime atmosphere' DAILY MAIL Helen Brown ('It is formidably researched and evokes real atmosphere' SAGA magazine Emma Soames)


`Bakewell conjures up a cracking wartime atmosphere' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Not my usual kind of book, either - but as Stockport is my hometown, I was attracted by its northern setting. (Stockport is loosely fictionalised as Staveley, and Joan Bakewell dredges up a few details that I'd quite forgotten like the old Essoldo cinema ... long gone I imagine?)
Unfortunately, like many journalists who turn to fiction, Bakewell is a competent writer - but that's as far as it goes and this novel is lacking in any real spark. This is fiction-by-numbers, no better than an old-fashioned women's magazine serial. She throws in all the ingredients as if she's following a recipe; mix 4oz of illegitimate birth, 5oz of kidney transplant sub-plot ... and what do you get, a trite and unconvincing ending!
On the historical side, she has done her homework - but lacks the skill to infuse it with life.
It isn't a dreadful book. It's a quick, easy read - just a bit plodding.
A girls' grammar school 'adopts' a merchant ship during WW2, the serious-minded headmistress falls for the ship's master ... and lives are tangled down to the present generation. It passed an evening, but was very forgettable.
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Format: Hardcover
This is not my normal sort of book but the title intrigued me. From the start I could imagine the head-mistress of this well-to-do girls school. Joan Bakewell's accounts of what Liverpool docks and the fictitious Stockport were fabulous - you can almost smell the air there. I am only 40 and therefore was not alive during this time but I felt that throughout this book I could hear my grandmother as she used to tell me what life was like for women during the second world war. The book has a lovely just-in-time finish and although it's not all roses it is as it should be and left me feeling evermore grateful for what I have.
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By JuliaC VINE VOICE on 15 Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover
They say that everyone has a novel in them - and fair play to Joan Bakewell for publishing her first at the age of 74. Cards on the table - I really admire her as a broadcaster; cultural and ethical commentator; and as a woman. I have recently read her excellent autobiography `The Centre of the Bed', and enjoyed it immensely. I have enormous respect for her.
So I wanted to really enjoy this Second World War romance - and I did enjoy it. I read it in a couple of days - eager to find out what happened. But it would not be honest of me to say that I found it without fault. Maybe because I was so recently acquainted with some of the details of her own wartime story, the parallels with her own experiences were a bit obvious for me. The imaginary town of Staveley, positioned between Manchester and Liverpool , is a device which seems to be a bit clunky here.
The novel tells the story of a girls' grammar school adopting a ship during the war, and of the relationships which develop between both the school as a whole, and in particular the romances that blossom between two of the pupils; their head mistress and three of the crew. There are some very touching moments in these stories, and Bakewell does bring to life the morals and values of the time, and how they stifled both women and girls, especially those who openly challenged social mores. She deals with real issues such as pregnancy outside marriage; adultery and adolescent sexuality well before the sexual revolution that was to follow in the 60's.
The parallel modern day story she tells of the daughter of one of these women, who gradually uncovers hitherto secret elements of her own personal history, does not work quite so well.
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Format: Paperback
`All The Nice Girls' is set in part during 1942 when WWII is not going well for the British. As part of the war effort an all girl's grammar school in Stockport becomes one of the many that decide to sign up for the Merchant Navy's Ship Adoption Scheme. The idea, as headmistress Cynthia Maitland sees it (who was bereaved in the previous war)is to make `her girls' aware of what is going on in the world out there and of course to do there bit. The reality is a little bit different as this is, of course, is going to mix a group of young girls, all excitement and hormones, with a group of sailors.

Now with the premise of a group of young girls in the war, and Joan focuses on sixth formers Polly (also called Margaret) and Jen, you kind of know what is on the horizon - both the good and the bad. This is where Joan Bakewell throws in another thread into it all with a story set in 2003 where we find Millie, whose daughter is suffering from kidney failure to which Millie is debating helping with or not, has been left her mothers belongings. I won't say more as the reader is left wondering how the two are entwined and I don't want to spoil anything.

I have to admit I struggled with this novel to start with. I didn't feel I could keep up as Bakewell introduces several school girls, teachers and then an endless cast of officers etc in 1942 before then switching to 2003 when your still just grasping the past, however the `voice' she writes with carried me on.

I think it is Bakewell's storytelling (and this is a proper war story) rather than just the era that left me in mind of the authors of both the 1930s and the 1960s. I am aware that this might sound rather odd but that's the flavour that the book and indeed Bakewell left me with.
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