This is the book Meg Ryan knows about in You’ve Got Mail… as well as all the other Shoes books. And it’s wonderful. Engaging characters doing their best to survive a series of setbacks and disappointments in the theatre and ballet. The audition passages are gripping.
It’s also a window into a pre-war (1937) world when the live-in housekeeper/nanny is a good friend and part of the of the family; when cocoa and biscuits are the ultimate comfort; when lodgers can be found by placing a request in Harrods. The cynic might sneer and dismiss it all as the travails of the over-privileged. But those audition scenes, and the subsequent struggles to find – and hold onto – steady work on stage, put the lie to that. These young girls might well have a nanny and live just down the road from Harrods – but they have to work for what they want. They really have to work.