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The Finest Type of English Womanhood Paperback – 4 Feb 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Windmill Books (4 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099532743
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099532743
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 877,909 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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)

Review

'Compellingly told, reminiscent of early Doris Lessing...the twists keep the reader glued to the novel' --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book all the way through in two sittings, and ended up finishing it at about two o'clock in the morning. It is the most compulsively readable book I think I've ever read. It is funny moving frightening chilling and heartbreaking all in one, and has such unstoppable momentum I found myself rushing back home so I could read it. It is a love story and a murder story (and a search on the web reveals that the astonishing murder at its heart actually happened in real life!), but most of all it is a brilliant study of two young women adrift in their lives as they hit adulthood. It's one of the best books about women I've read in a long time.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book totally unputdownable, the sense of atmosphere, suspense and the momentum keep you gripped from the beginning. It's the story of two very different young women both desperate to escape their lives and both setting out into the world, following them from postwar England to pre-apartheid Johannesburg where their stories entwine. The characters are so well written, Laura Trelling gradually transforming from a naive young girl as she is forced to take some control over her life, and ambitious and wild Gay Gibson.

This novel is fast paced and gripping, I'd recommended it to anyone who loves dark and suspenseful books and superb writing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This first novel by Rachel Heath is a brilliant book. It is the story of two women who go to South africa post war and (just) pre apartheid. Their lives merge and this is set against Austerity Britain and the developemnt of Black african resistance to the pass laws.

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.

Buy it!
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Format: Paperback
The Finest Type of English Womanhood is the story of Laura Trelling and Gay Gibson, woven around a real-life murder. Cleverly, the two women do not meet until right near the end, so you are kept in suspense from the start. Laura, who tells the main (and more interesting) part of the story compares it to a "grafting", with the murdered Gibson's diaries giving voice to the more attractive, sexually manipulative character.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book and it kept me enthralled to the last page. I thought it was generally well written, and paints a vivid picture of the homesickness and loneliness of being far from home and the outsider in a new family, and being forced to grow up through hard lessons. However, the main character's overall initial naivete is frustrating at best and completely unbelievable at worst, particularly given her rather more cynical actions at the end of the book. The characters do seem a little one-dimensional in that they all seem very predominantly their own brand of weak. Even weak people have moments of strength and integrity, but that seems to be lacking in these characters. This may be a little bit of a **SPOILER**, but I liked the slightly ambiguous suggestion at the end of the book that the way things had been painted throughout the story may not in fact have been the true reality and that it may have been skewed due to certain characters' tendency to elaborate and rewrite history, so that you came to reassess all you thought you'd been told up to that point. I felt it gave the story a bit of a twist and some extra necessary depth.
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