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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Long Life, Well Lived, 29 April 2014
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This review is from: Coming Up Trumps: A Memoir (Kindle Edition)
Baroness Trumpington, now in her early nineties, has experienced a long and interesting life and she has now decided, or been persuaded, to share that life with us in this very readable and enjoyable memoir. Born in 1922 as Jean Campbell-Harris, the daughter of an officer in the Bengal Lancers and an American heiress, Trumpers, as she later became known, was part of a wealthy and privileged family who moved in all the right circles - her grandmother was great friends with the Lloyd George family, her mother was very friendly with one of his daughters, Lady Carey-Evans, and Jean and her two brothers and the Lloyd George grandchildren were "all sort of brought up together." The Liberal Party leader, Jeremy Thorpe, and Jean spent quite a lot of time together as children, but Jean thought him a rather horrid little boy and they had terrible fights. In common with most children from a similar background, Jean was brought up by a series of nannies and as a young child spent most of her time in the nurseries on the top floor of the large Georgian townhouse in which the family lived; she tells us how she used to lean out of the top floor window with a penny wrapped in paper to throw down to the muffin man and at night she would watch out for the man who came to light the street lamps. However, childhood, she tells us, was not her happiest time and although she never told anyone she was unhappy, her mother worked it out for herself when she turned up at Jean's boarding school unannounced and was greeted by the headmistress with great surprise as Jean had told everyone that her mother had died two weeks previously.

Fortunately life improved as Jean became older and although she left school at fifteen with no qualifications and never took an exam in her life - not even a driving test ("I learnt to drive in the war, when we were all given licences without having to take a test") - Jean didn't let a lack of formal qualifications hold her back. After a spell at finishing school in Paris, Jean came back to England just before the outbreak of WWII and became a land girl on Lloyd George's farm in Surrey, which she found so desperately dull that she decided instead to try a secretarial course, but was hopeless at shorthand. Jean was then, through a friend of her father's, offered a position at Bletchley Park, a job which, she tells us, was a mix of the deathly dull and the thrillingly exciting. "When we weren't working hard we were being extremely naughty." After the war, Jean returned to Paris and worked for an international organization set up to put the inland transport of Europe back together and where she went out with 'various chaps' but, after two years, returned to England and had a succession of jobs, including a stint in Peter Jones. After a period working in America, where for fun Jean tap danced on tables, she met her future husband, Alan Barker, a master at Eton who was in the States on a fellowship to Yale University. They married in London in 1954 and her husband took up a history fellowship at Queens' College, Cambridge, and was later made headmaster of The Leys School in Cambridge where, Jean tells us, she spent the happiest and most settled years of her life. In the early seventies Jean became a magistrate, around the time of the Cambridge Rapist, she later became Mayor of Cambridge and then started her career in politics, but I shall leave the details and the remainder of Baroness Trumpington's story for prospective readers to discover for themselves - and there is a lot more to this memoir than I have revealed in this review.

Filled with interesting characters and situations, and with some lovely photographs of the author and her family and friends, I found this memoir an enjoyable, engaging and entertaining read. Born at a time when most young girls of her class were expected to go to finishing school, get married, have children and give parties, Jean did all of that, but thankfully she was fortunate enough to be able to do a lot more besides. A long life, well lived.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 18 May 2014 20:52:17 BDT
brilliant just brilliant would love to meet this lady never read any thing so good for a long time loved her

In reply to an earlier post on 18 May 2014 23:14:54 BDT
Susie B says:
Hello Mrs Cummings

Thank you for your comment - I'm so pleased that the author was encouraged to share her story with us and am glad that you also enjoyed reading her memoir. Best wishes, SusieB.
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