A Pin to See the Peep Show by F. Tennyson Jesse

A Pin to See the Peep Show cover

A Pin to See the Peep Show by F. Tennyson Jesse was first published in 1934 and has recently been reprinted by British Library.

The book begins when Julia Almond is a 16 year old schoolgirl, she’s rather besotted by one of her female teachers. Julia lives in a bit of a fantasy world, day-dreaming a better life for herself, that’s something that we all do from time to time I’m sure. To be fair Julia’s home life is less than ideal and as she gets older things get even worse. To get away from home she accepts a proposal of marriage from an older man, a friend of her parents whose wife had fairly recently died. There’s absolutely no romance involved, but Julia craves the comfort and lovely home that Herbert can give her, but she’s shocked that “That pleasant, rather dull looking man opposite, with that slight air of foolishness that everyone has who sleeps with his mouth slightly open, was the strange man with whom she had passed that first devastating night, who had assaulted her, apparently without any thought of her own sensations.” Her body feels battered, as well as her soul.

Julia throws herself into her career,she has worked her way up from being an apprentice in a dress shop to being a buyer for them and travelling to Paris, at work she’s still known as Miss Almond, something that she’s thankful for. At home she reads romances.

Inevitably when Julia meets a young man that she fancies she falls for him hard. Leo is a very handsome merchant sailor, and is going out with Julia’s cousin, but in no time Julia and Leo are having an affair and the cousin has been dropped. For Leo the whole thing isn’t all that serious, he’s a typical sailor, but Julia starved of the romance that she craves builds it all up into more than it really is. When she writes to Leo she does so with an excess of purple passion and her imagination running in over-drive. It doesn’t end at all well!

This tale is based on a real couple and although I enjoyed it and the writing I did find the ending a bit depressing. However I’m thankful that I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of this book for review by British Library.

8 thoughts on “A Pin to See the Peep Show by F. Tennyson Jesse

  1. I’ve been interested in reading this since I read another book based on the same real life story (The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters). I’m hoping to read it soon, so I’m pleased you enjoyed it, despite the depressing ending!

    • Helen,
      I hadn’t heard of the case at all before I started reading the book, but it seems that the true story has been taken up by various writers over the years. That’s not something that I really like as it seems lazy to borrow completely from reality instead of using imagination and writing something completely – novel!

  2. For some reason Martin Edwards includes this one as one of his 100 Classic Crime books. I’m intrigued, since it doesn’t really sound like a crime novel, and the BL has put it in their Women Writers section rather than their vintage crime series. Glad you enjoyed it, more or less – it’s on my list…

    • FictionFan,
      It does seem odd, I suppose it’s a difficult one to categorise as there is a crime and a trial – eventually – but the whole thing so closely follows an actual case that it hardly seems like fiction.

  3. This does sound interesting and I hadn’t noticed it among the recent reprints. I know I read The Paying Guests but don’t remember it well enough to see any similarities; still, that is another aspect to keep in mind.

    We got nearly two feet of snow yesterday but the sun is out today and the streets are all plowed so I will be able to go to work tomorrow. I suppose that is good!

    • Constance,
      This one is definitely worth reading.
      I saw on the news that you have had terrible weather. We have been blasted by yet another storm with 80 mph winds, but we have survived although a lot of ancient trees have been blown over which is really sad. A few people were killed by falling trees. Our car hasn’t been fixed since we ran into two fallen trees two months ago during Storm Arwen – there’s such a backlog of cars needing bumps beaten out of them!
      It might have been quite nice if you had had a bit of a holiday from work!

  4. Thanks for reviewing! It wasn’t until I saw the comment above that I wondered whether I should have recommended to Crime Classics instead of ‘my’ series, but I do agree with FictionFan that it feels more suitable in the Women Writers series 🙂

    • Simon T,
      I meant to give you a name check as your Afterword is so interesting, I really enjoy all the historical extra notes that are included in these British Library publications. Thank you.
      Katrina Stephen

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