A Quiet Life
By Beryl Bainbridge
Seventeen-year-old Alan can't stand rows. But, though the Second World War has ended, peace hangs by a fine thread at home: his troublesome sister Madge creeps off for night-time liaisons with a German POW; their ineffectual father - broken by the hardships of war and an unhappy marriage - can't put food on the table despite the family's middle-class manners. Meanwhile, his mother pursues her escapist fantasies in romantic novels and love affairs. Obedient, faithful Alan is trapped among them all, the focus of their jibes and resentment, as inexorably the family heads towards disaster. Beryl Bainbridge's classic early novel is a vintage story of English domestic life, laced with sadness, irony and wicked black humour.
By Dorothy Thompson
Queen Victoria came to the throne almost without resources, under threat from republicanism, in a period of social, political and economic turbulence. She died, having revived the failing image of the British monarchy, head of one of the world's richest families. Victoria was the first monarch in British history to combine the public role of head of state with the private one of wife and mother. Alone among married women she was not governed by laws which stipulated surrendering both name and fortune to one's husband. Yet she herself opposed the movement for women's rights.The complex effects of Victoria's gender on public attitudes and her own actions are brilliantly drawn out in this intriguing book.