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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 1 August 2017
Ok
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on 7 August 2017
Love every one of her books
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on 9 May 2017
Good, interesting characters that had depth and complexity. It explored many difficult themes. Certainly made me cry at some parts
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on 6 August 2017
Good story
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on 10 June 2011
What a wonderful story, I have just finished reading this book. I found the story of these two girls fascinating and I couldn't put the book down and cried a lot as well. Immediately, you get into the story and become involved with the lives of all the characters. Rosie Thomas is a wonderful story teller, I shall certainly be reading more of her books in the future. This is a "must read" book.
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on 29 April 2014
Having much enjoyed some of Rosie Thomas's more recent books, notably The Kashmir Shawl and Iris and Ruby, I thought I would try this earlier work. Well, it's a readable book, with a fairly interesting storyline (though I have to say I did not really like either of the two main characters). But I think this book is interesting mainly to see how a writer progresses with experience. Thomas's recent books are brilliant evocations of atmosphere, with absorbing descriptions of another place or another time which are as delightful as the actual narrative.In contrast, this book seems laboured, banal and above all overwritten - it would benefit greatly from being cut down to two thirds of its length, with the long passages making explicit every detail of a character's feelings and ideas being chopped. Thomas has definitely honed her skill greatly over the years, and a comparison of this with her later works would be an excellent exercise for a creative writing class. In a novel, we do not need to be told every detail; sometimes less is more!
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I bought this book as a light read over the Bank Holiday, when I was working hard on a project and didn't have much head space for anything profound. It's a pleasant, sometimes engaging story of two friends, Mattie and Julia, and their experiences over the 1960s and 1970s. Mattie and Julia run away from their Essex home to London at the age of sixteen, Mattie to escape her drunken father and his sexual advances, Julia because she finds her parents so dull. They get jobs with incredible speed, but have problems finding accommodation. After a night sleeping rough on the Embankment they meet Felix Lemoine, an art student, and go to live with him and his mother Jessie (a former nightclub hostess turned wise alcoholic). The girls make a strange 'new family' with this mother and son. Meanwhile their lives begin to go in different directions. Julia, who finds out she was adopted, goes through a number of dullish secretarial jobs, falls hopelessly in love with Josh, an American aviator with Commitment Issues, gets a job in interior design, dabbles in modelling and eventually gives up on Josh to marry Sir Alexander Bliss, a Chelsea musician and aristocrat. When Alexander's father, the Lord of the Manor, dies unexpectedly (as Lords of the Manor so often do in this sort of novel) Julia and Alexander inherit his house, Ladyshill, and go to live there. Meanwhile, Mattie makes a slow progression from work as a stage manager in a touring repertory company to having small parts with said company (after she's slept with the director) to work as a stripper in London and then finally to acting success, as she takes a lead role in a play written by one of the Angry Young Men. But the girls' lives are full of surprises. After a tragedy at Ladyshill, Julia begins to wonder if she can bear living there even more, and whether she should stay with Alexander, even though he's such a kind man, and she's now had his child. Eventually, she sets off on a journey to fulfilment that will lead her first to London then to Italy. Meanwhile Mattie bounces from periods of great success to more tricky times on the stage, and finds that love and a fulfilling relationship continues to elude her. Will she find contentment? Will Julia? How will they manage to equate what's possible with their dreams of what they'd really want? It takes nearly 900 pages for us to find out - but actually the book doesn't seem too long, and is a fairly quick read.

There are certainly a lot of positive things to be said about this novel. Rosie Thomas is much better at setting a period flavour than most popular novelists, and drops in some interesting historical references, particularly to theatre and culture. Julia is an engaging heroine, and, like Susie B, I enjoyed the descriptions of her boutique and also her time working in Italy and the garden she creates. And some of the characters, such as Felix and Alexander, are genuinely likeable. The story also was well paced, though I think Thomas could have cut about 200 pages. But there were things about the book that irritated me. I couldn't bring myself to care much about Mattie, who seemed deliberately self-destructive, rather than a victim of circumstance, and found Mitch, her husband, rather dull and implausible as a character. I also found Mattie's attention-seeking (particularly the drinking - not all actors are alcoholics and promiscuous) very irritating and repetitive after a while, and felt her story was much less gripping than Julia's (a shame as had Thomas explored Mattie's theatre work and why she wanted to be an actress more it could have been interesting). Josh the aviator was a 'cartoon hero' (as one of the other characters wittily termed him, and seemed such a stereotype that I wanted to shake Julia for not leaving him earlier. I didn't believe Julia would have begun an affair with Josh with so little guilt when she had a baby, or that she would have felt so little guilt about Alexander. I found the super-cool Lily also very irritating, and much less vulnerable than a girl in her situation with divorced parents would have probably been. And also, in the end, I didn't believe in either Julia or Lily dropping out of school if they were meant to be so intelligent - my experience of women who got into grammar school in Julia's generation and after was that they were so glad to have free education at a high level, seeing it as a way to escape their mothers' destinies, that they stuck it and tried to go on to university even if being academic wasn't their top ambition in life. I also found too many of the characters, particularly in the later stages, were very one-dimensional, which led to rather dull and implausible bits of plotting. Still, the later bits of the book set in Italy were rather lovely, and the ending had a certain heartwarming feel.

A pleasant and non-demanding read, and good if you're tired, but not really anything more. I enjoyed it in the same way that one enjoys a fairly good series of episodes of a television soap opera, but it's not encouraged me to explore Rosie Thomas's work in depth.
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on 20 July 2012
I love, love, love this book! I got torn into the story from the very first page and I just wanted it to go on and on. The characters are very realistic and likeable; and once again Rosie Thomas proves to be a wonderful storyteller...reading her books just feels like being there and then. I'd recommend this book anytime!!!
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Set mostly in England and, later in the story, in Italy, 'Bad Girls, Good Women' begins during a New Year's Eve party at the end of 1959, when a dramatic fire rampages through an old country house, which has quite devastating consequences - not just for the main protagonist of the story, Julia, but for many of those close to her. The story then moves back in time a few years, when a sixteen-year-old Julia and her friend, Mattie, run away to London, when Mattie can no longer bear her drunken father's sexual advances. After sleeping in an alleyway in Soho when their money runs out, Julia and Mattie meet and are befriended by Felix, a young, gay art student and his ailing alcoholic mother, Jessie. Julia and Mattie move in to Jessie's and Felix's rather cramped flat, and it is here that they all rub along together enjoying a hectic life, during which time Mattie dreams of becoming an actress, and the beautiful Julia learns from Felix how to dress stylishly, before falling in love with, and having her heart broken by, the very attractive American aviator, Josh.

Julia then meets the quiet and reliable (Sir) Alexander Bliss, whose family seat is Ladyhill, a beautiful, old mansion with mullioned windows, oak panelled walls and a long gallery. When Alexander proposes marriage, Julia, who has become very fond of Alexander, accepts his proposal and, deciding to put her love for Josh behind her, she tries hard to become the loving wife that Alexander deserves. However, when in the early hours of New Year's Day 1960, Ladyhill is severely damaged by a fire, caused by Julia's insistence on real candles for their Christmas tree, and one of her old friends dies in the flames, Julia finds it impossible to put the tragic event behind her. Whilst Alexander throws himself into the restoration of Ladyhill and Julia gives birth to their daughter, Lily, she struggles to settle down to life as lady of the manor, and when a letter arrives from her old lover, Josh, she begins to wonder whether she can face the rest of her life as Alexander's wife. But will Julia risk everything she has and her daughter's happiness to be with Josh - even though he has made it clear that he is not the settling-down type? Mattie meanwhile, in her attempts to become an actress, works as a stagehand and then a stripper, as she strives to attain her dream - but when stardom finally comes within her grasp, is it really all that Mattie thought it would be? And when Mattie does something that Julia feels is a betrayal, is Julia able to look past this and continue their close and loving friendship? (No spoilers - we learn most of this early in the story and this novel has almost 800 pages, so there is a huge amount more to discover).

Moving over three decades, this engaging story is the tale of Julia's and Mattie's lives, of their families, their friends, their loves, hopes, disappointments and dreams. Rosie Thomas creates characters you find yourself caring about and she sets her scenes well; her descriptions of the characters' surroundings, of the interior design shop, 'Garlic and Sapphires', which Julia opens in London, and the enchanting, secret walled garden that she restores when in Italy, were very enjoyable to read. My sister gave me this novel for Christmas and, although I was not planning on reading it immediately, a nasty virus had me flat out on the sofa for a few days and this book was the ideal companion for me while I recovered. This is not a great literary novel - and not meant to be one - not all of the situations portrayed are wholly convincing, some of the language is maybe a little cliched, and you most probably won't be up until the early hours frantically turning pages, but it is a warm, engaging and involving read and ideal for those times when you want something enjoyable and undemanding - so it's a good choice for holidays, downtimes, bedtimes, and especially for recuperating on the sofa!
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on 21 November 2001
I loved this book! I was enjoying it so much I didn't want to finish it, but I couldn't put it down either! All the characters in this book are real,colourful and likeable! Everyone will relate to this book in some way. It is a story of love and friendship, and the happiness and heartache of growing up and coming to terms with yourself, even if you don't always like what you are! A really good book to escape into!
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