Her arms holding very tight, the soft perfume, her cheek wet against hers. ‘Don’t worry, ma petite, Maman and Papa will see you again soon’.
Publisher: Bloomsbury Books
Published: October 9th 2014 (My Birthday!)
Pages: 432 Pages
It is 1948 and the young and beautiful Marguerite Carter has lost her parents and survived a terrifying war, working for the SOE behind enemy lines. She returns to England to be one of the first woman to receive a degree from the University of Cambridge. Now she pins back her unruly auburn curls, draws a pencil seam up her legs, ties the laces on her sensible black shoes and sets out towards her future as an English teacher in a girls’ grammar school. For Miss Carter has a mission to fight social injustice, to prevent war and to educate her girls.
Miss Carter’s War was another read chosen for my work’s book club – it probably wouldn’t be something I’d normally pick off the shelves, but I was keen to give it a go.
After the war, Maeguerite embarks on a world of teaching and always tries to help people, regardless of social status. She cares an awful lot for her pupils and probably oversteps the working relationship a few times, as she shows a high level of empathy outside of school.
During her time at Dartford County Grammar School for Girls she becomes close to a fellow teacher Tony, who she develops a crush on. However, Tony is gay and in 1950’s this wasn’t classed as “acceptable” – a harrowing element that you just can’t comprehend. Tony being gay is a main focus within the novel and I think Shelia deals with it beautifully. She writes about the heartache of the AIDS virus and how it can deeply effect a lot of people. Tony and Marguerite’s relationship is one of love and although they are not sexual with one another they could marry and be happy for the rest of their lives. I love the partnership and if I could have a friend, male or female, that could be close to me like that, I’d be happy.
There are a variety of flashbacks to Marguerite’s experiences during the war where you learn of her parents’ death. I’m not entirely sure these were needed because they didn’t really relate to the story, more just used as a filler.