The Finest Type of English Womanhood Paperback – 4 Feb 2010
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"A dark, compelling debut ... Heath skilfully recreates the trajectory of Gibson's life, but it's Trelling's equally damaged character ... which provides the vital emotional charge" (Daily Mail)
"Heath combines imaginative, fast paced story telling with an unerring sense of period, place and mood... an exceptionally well-written, suspenseful novel." (Guardian)
"Excellent on the atmosphere of post-war Britain and the lure of South Africa... compellingly told, reminiscent of early Doris Lessing ... the twists keep the reader glued to the novel." (Independent)
"...thrillingly macabre." (Daily Telegraph)
"Excellent ... There is a compulsion and persuasive assurance in the writing" (Sunday Times)
'Compellingly told, reminiscent of early Doris Lessing...the twists keep the reader glued to the novel' --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
The Finest Type of English Womanhood is the story of Laura Trelling and Gay Gibson, told by Laura as she watches someone (I won't say who) being tried for the murder of Gay. Laura is a fabulous creation by the writer Rachel Heath, very funny and yet quite unnerving in how honest and yet unknowing she is, and she sweeps you up in her story and you never want to stop listening to her. Laura gets taken to Johannesburg by a young husband she barely knows and tries to make sense of the world around her. It is here that she meets Gay who is a young actress trying to get a break, and here that their stories combine with the most dramatic consequences. Some of the scenes in the book are so beautifully written that you find yourself laughing out loud one moment and then gripped by tension the next. There are so many scenes I loved: from the opening party to the whirlwind wedding in London to the wonderfully evocative world of Johannesburg where everyone arriving from Europe seems desperate to reinvent themselves and start their lives afresh.Read more ›
This novel is fast paced and gripping, I'd recommended it to anyone who loves dark and suspenseful books and superb writing.
But it's the story here that holds sway, the suspense, the way you become utterly engrossed in the characters and their decisions, and the wonderful writing all make it an utterly rewarding read.
It would be ideal for book groups and is not solely a "woman's book". It has a dark side to it that grips you and makes you read on.
Laura is a type familiar in pre and inter-War fiction, the young, well-bred, impoverished and isolated girl who is desperate to leave home. Her unhappily-married parents barely seem to notice her, and she is friendless at school. When invited to a party she meets Paul, who looks "foreign, different", and he not only gives her her first kiss but is prosing to her with extraordinary rapidity. Though she is only 17, she gets married and they set off for his native South Africa.
So far, so very like Rumer Godden, Dodie Smith, Rosamund Lehmann etc but as well as Gay Gibson's paralle desperation to escape Birkenhead there is South Africa itself. Why are Paul's parents so hostile? Why hasn't he consummated their marriage? Where does he go, and what is he involved in? There is a powerful depiction of erotic frustration, and real talent in the interweaving of the two stories as Laura's frustration and ignorance are slowly lifted. The garden that she has to tend in return for her free lodgings is a wonderful metaphor for all that is going wrong, but the moral corruption of South Africa in the grip of rising apartheid is drawn with less assurance. By the time we get to meet Moses, the black "gardener", it's too late to really run with the theme of racial tension. I think it would have been a stronger novel had we just stuck with Laura's story, because she is much less convincing and largely superfluous except as a victim. All the same, Rachel Heath is a real find, and her talent at plot, atmosphere and characterisation make her an author to watch.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well written but v odd book.
Described lower white middle class S. Africa and the abhorrent apartheid system evocatively .
I also read this over two days and loved it. I hoped to learn more about South Africa in that time, but I was gripped by the story. Read morePublished on 4 Nov. 2013 by smh
An entertaining novel based loosely on the 1947 Gay Gibson case. The narrative comes from the main character (Laura) and from extracts from a diary belonging to Gay Gibson. Read morePublished on 3 Oct. 2013 by andy
A debut novel by author Rachel Heath which, as I found out after having read the book, actually combines fact with fiction, the story of the totally fictional Laura with the... Read morePublished on 19 April 2013 by Tracy Terry
the cover and the title don't do this book justice, it was a joy to read. Highly recommend it. Will be buying it as a present for friends.Published on 13 Dec. 2012 by C. J. Mcnicholas
All the reviews have picked out key elements that make this book such a joy to read. But one further point needs to be made. Read morePublished on 18 May 2011 by Anita
On balance I did enjoy this book however I did find aspects a little frustrating.
I 'read into' the situation plot lines that were left unresolved but appeared by... Read more
This is Rachel Heath`s debut novel, and she has written an absorbing book, very readable, with a thoroughly believable plot; not surprising as it is based on actual events. Read morePublished on 16 Oct. 2010 by J. M. Harman
I had high hopes for this book, having read the previous reviews. But I found the characters shallow, cold and unbelievable, which made reading the book difficult going. Read morePublished on 21 Sept. 2010 by eclectic reader