The setting is early on in the First World War. The village of Little Crampton is home to Miss Maggie Hopkins, she’s a spinster and her hobby is digging up the dirt on anyone she comes into contact with – then broadcasting it to all and sundry. When Mrs Dalton a young widow with a daughter moves into the village she knows that she’ll have to find a husband soon as her money will run out. She sets her cap at Mr Bingley the local bank manager who is reputed to have plenty of money. Maggie Hopkins decides to have some amusement at Mrs Dalton’s expense and writes a letter to Miss Sally Lunton who has been living in Paris, but had lived in Little Crampton earlier as she was a ward of the local vicar Mr Lovelady. At the age of 31 Sally feels she’s on the shelf and will have to find a rich husband soon, so with the war advancing on Paris she decides to head for the safer location of Little Crampton, especially as Maggie Hopkins has written to tell Sally all about the wealthy bank manager who is a bachelor.
This is a great read which has plenty of humour, with the rivals for the bank manager becoming friends in their honesty that neither of them really want him as he’s a fairly unattractive and ghastly man, and is absolutely full of himself, but needs must! They’re both head and shoulders above him intellectually, but as women their life choices are narrow.
Mr Bingley had had one of those mothers who was determined to ward off any woman who might look like taking him away from her. Knowing that she couldn’t live forever and with the future in mind she wrote a huge book of advice for him. THE BOOK which Mr Bingley consults constantly has such advice as: Never marry your social superior; she will look down on you. Never marry your social inferior, you will look down on her. His mother is orchestrating his life from the grave!
Added to that is Maggie Hopkins, a sleuth who thinks nothing of writing letters to people abroad to ferret out what she sees as scandal.
First published in 1915 I was really impressed that Winifred Boggs had written about how the war could devastate a soldier’s life, even if he looked unscathed to the casual observer.
As ever, there’s a lot more to this book than I’ve written about, but I’ll leave that for you to discover, if you fancy reading it.
Many thanks to British Library who sent me a copy of this book for review.