A gently diverting memoir of adolescence in Norfolk, England, between the wars. Salusbury was nearly 13, the oldest of four, when her sunny, vibrant mother abandoned the family and ran off, apparently with a soldier. A year later, her embittered, rigidly routined father forced her to leave school and take over the household chores, helped and sustained by an aging grandmother. With a fine sense of period detail, Salusbury re-creates those first years at home and the ones immediately after—as she suffered the evasions of the adults around her and struggled with a series of dead-end jobs (waitress, governess, companion) and naively blind romantic relationships. Eventually, she took a degree in nursing, which gave her a surer place in the world, and married a loving, outward-bound man—all this by the age of 26. Modern readers may wonder at Salusbury's acceptance of an unusually mean-spirited father (he would allow the mother back only as housekeeper) and of her own failure either to reconcile with her mother or appreciate what she endured. However, the author excels as a recorder of what British life offered a resilient girl of slender means, presenting a vivid picture of her rites of passage in unadorned but steadily involving prose.
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