Author: Penrose Halson
Published: May 2017, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: ARC Paperback, 52 pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours
A riveting glimpse of life and love during and after World War II—a heart-warming, touching, and thoroughly absorbing true story of a world gone by.
In the spring of 1939, with the Second World War looming, two determined twenty-four-year-olds, Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver, decided to open a marriage bureau. They found a tiny office on London’s Bond Street and set about the delicate business of matchmaking. Drawing on the bureau’s extensive archives, Penrose Halson—who many years later found herself the proprietor of the bureau—tells their story, and those of their clients.
From shop girls to debutantes; widowers to war veterans, clients came in search of security, social acceptance, or simply love. And thanks to the meticulous organization and astute intuition of the Bureau’s matchmakers, most found what they were looking for.
Penrose Halson draws from newspaper and magazine articles, advertisements, and interviews with the proprietors themselves to bring the romance and heartbreak of matchmaking during wartime to vivid, often hilarious, life in this unforgettable story of a most unusual business.
“A book full of charm and hilarity.”—Country Life
My thoughts: I have to admit that I am not usually a non-fiction reader, but this book just called to me. And, it was such an easy, fun, quick read that really kept my attention. I remember what dating was like before I got married - and that wasn't too long ago, so imagine what it was like before the internet and all those crazy dating sites out there!
I loved the charm of this book. It was interesting to read about how the Marriage Bureau came to be in the first place and how it was run, especially while the war was going on. Not knowing if they were going to succeed or not, Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver poured their heart and soul into their little business and really made a go out of it. And boy oh boy did they attract some interesting characters!
I loved the anecdotes of the actual clients they served throughout the years. They sure had some interesting clients and whether it was due to the war mentality or that was just the way some people were at that time, I was flabbergasted! One man, a Mr. John Paul, needed to be introduced to 48 women before finally finding the one that will do! But in the end, he at least had the decency to acknowledge that he probably held the record for being a "difficult" person - ha!
The book is filled with little stories like this and I loved each and every one of them. But, the anecdotes weren't just about the clients that Heather and Mary, and then later on the secretaries, helped. There were also those who approached The Marriage Bureau with business propositions - like Mrs. Budd and her "bust bodice" - that was hysterical, especially when Mary decided to take the sample home to "try" out! Poor Mary! And then the ladies were asked to judge a Baby Show - that was also quite hilarious!!!
Heather and Mary took their match-making to heart. They developed their own system so that when they were interviewing clients they could classify them and easily determine who might be a good fit. Each interview was taken seriously and sometimes the interviews were more than just about finding a match. These became counseling sessions, too.
The war is such a factor in this book and it definitely affects the business - both good and bad. It was interesting to see the impact it had not only on the business, but on the clients and their feelings towards the war itself.
This was such a great book about the social history of London during this time. I love reading books that are just a little different than what I usually read and this totally fit that. Included in the back of the book are some of the actual comments that the interviewers made as well as some of the requirements that both the men and women had at the time. It's quite an eye-opener!
About the author: When Penrose was 25 and still unmarried, her mother sent her to the Katharine Allen Marriage & Advice Bureau. Twenty years later, after a career in teaching, writing and editing, she and her management consultant husband Bill bought the Bureau. They also acquired The Marriage Bureau, which had been set up in 1939 by two 24-year-olds. As Bill had predicted, matchmaking suited Penrose down to the ground, and they remain happily in touch with many former clients who visit them in London.
Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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