JOY STREET by Mirren Barford


A Wartime Romance in Letters, 1940-1942
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 This epistolary relationship is a throwback to an era of kinder, gentler romances. Mirren Barford and Jock Lewes met in 1939, when Mirren was at Oxford and Jock in the army, and they began a courtship that would last three years, through rejections (on both sides) and long separations. But the number of times they strolled Joy Street together (their secret code name for the occasions they met) never reached double digits. Still, much can be conveyed in letters, especially in wartime. Mirren and Jock shared thoughts about courage and duty, love and lustthis last always discreetly hidden in metaphorand through their correspondence fell in love. They became engaged while Jock was serving in North Africa, an officer and cofounder of the Special Air Service, described at the time as ``Britain's most romantic, most daring and most secret army,'' and Mirren was still at school. Tragically, Jock never came home. Mirren's letters were returned to hermany unread because of the long mail lag between England and North Africa. After her death in 1992, her son, Michael Wise, found the letters, and the result is this volume, a collection of the writings of two ordinary people who lived through an extraordinary time and through it became extraordinary themselves. The letters reflect this change, beginning as a flirtation and deepening into a relationship that was loving and philosophical, a process accelerated by the war. Haunted by the prospect of imminent death, Jock proposed: ``Just say yes, you'll marry me when I'm a proper Captain and I won't ask you to put it in the papers because I might never become a captain and then people would say ha ha, or else I might die and then they would say poor dear, and both are horrid, I think.'' Like a black-and-white war film: sweet, a little corny, unbearably sad.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-316-94767-9
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1995