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Customer Review

on 23 December 2014
Mary Cavanagh is a courageous writer who takes on difficult but important subjects. In Who Was Angela Zendalic? that subject is changing attitudes towards race, in particular, mixed race children, in a provincial city, ie, Oxford, in the 1950s and 1960s. The story begins in 2014 when single mother Sarah discovers, after the death of her beloved father, the eminent academic musician Sir Piers Penney, that her actual mother was not Piers's wife, now sadly confined in a nursing home, but an unheard of woman named Angela Zendalic. Sarah embarks on a quest to find out who Angela Zendalic was. The reader, however, learns the story, not just of Angela but of her mother Peggy and her tragic love affair with a young African student. In a rigidly respectable working class neighbourhood such as 1950s Jericho for a widow like Peggy to bring up a mixed race child was unthinkable so friends adopt the baby and Peggy is never able to acknowledge her as her own. The author skilfully weaves together that narrative with Angela's own story: blessed with a beautiful singing voice and encouraged to embark on a classical music career, she is drawn into the heady environment of the swinging sixties and the turbulent seventies when the world, and attitudes, changed for ever.
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