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.