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The Flight of the Maidens: A Novel Hardcover – July 10, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf; 1st Carroll & Graf Ed edition (July 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786708794
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786708796
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #817,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Here is a great vacation read but it's definitely not a throwaway. Prolific English novelist Gardam, Whitbread Award winner for both The Hollow Land and Queen of the Tambourine, has crafted a story through which readers can step into 1946 England. The war is over and the world is profoundly changed, though some of the old trappings remain, reminders of a faded past. Three Yorkshire girls of considerable intelligence but modest means have earned scholarships to universities in Cambridge and London; the novel is set during the summer before their departure for university. Hetty Fallowes decides "to be ruthless and positive and in charge of [her] own soul." She rebels against her quirky parents, especially her pious mother, who married her intellectual, grave-digging father for love and now regrets it. Plucky Una Vane's mother is using her dead father's office (he was a doctor) as a beauty parlor; Una develops leftist leanings and embarks on a romance with Ray, a boy of questionable background. Lieselotte Klein is a Jewish-German refugee who came to the village as a child to live with a Quaker family. At 17, she is suddenly sent to stay with a strange, elderly Jewish couple in London and finally, briefly, with distant relatives in California. All characters, major and minor, are superbly developed and convincing. The portrait of postwar England as conventions crumble and the country is rebuilt is terrific, drawn by a writer whose attention to detail recreates, lovingly and with bright flashes of wit, another time and place. (July)Forecast: Strong reviews and favorable word-of-mouth will be crucial to help build an American readership for this fine import.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

It is the summer of 1946 in Yorkshire, England. Food and clothing are still being rationed, and everyone is struggling to cope with the changes brought about by World War II. To the delight of the town, three local girls, best friends from secondary school, have won prestigious scholarships to universities in London and Cambridge. But before they depart, they must survive the summer. While Hetty struggles to escape from her battle-scarred father and possessive mother by reading books, Una haltingly asserts her emerging womanhood with a young man from the wrong side of the tracks and of a decidedly leftist political bent. Meanwhile, Liselotte, a Jewish refugee living with a Quaker family since her arrival in 1939 via the Kindertransport, is whisked off to California to meet her last surviving relative. Gardam, two-time winner of the Whitbread Award for The Hollow Land and Queen of the Tambourine, has written a charming and sensitive story of friendship and emotional maturation in a direct, polished style not without humor and irony. Fans of Maeve Binchy as well as the fine British writers of the 1940s and 1950s will find her prose and characters engaging. Recommended. Susan Clifford Braun, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Jane Gardam has been awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for a lifetime's contribution to the enjoyment of literature; has twice won a Whitbread Award and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She was awarded an OBE in January 2009.

Customer Reviews

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on December 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Jane Gardam's The Flight of the Maidens follows three young women during the summer before their entering university in England in 1946. That basic description may have you assuming that this novel would be a sweet, sentimental exploration of these three girls "growing up." I know that's what I thought it would be. It's not. All three young women face challenges that while completely believable, are not predictable or "canned" in any way. Each one of them surprised me in several ways, and it is this element of subtle surprise that I think distinguishes this novel. The characters are charming, without being corny; the story is entertaining, without being predictable. Enjoy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tony on December 30, 2011
Format: Paperback
It is 1946. Three girls come of age in the weeks after they emerge from school. All of them are poor, all have won scholarships to elite English colleges.

They live in Yorkshire. The background characters are passionate people who like to be seen as generous and self-sacrificing. They also tend to be petty and narrow, repressed and stunted, prone to selfishness and narcissism. There is the legacy of the puritan era, and laid over that, the first world war's residue of widowhood, spinsterhood and male madness.

Over the last six years females have focused in on each other; in the towns and cities, buildings still lie in ruins. People are still digesting the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the reduction of Hamburg and Dresden to `paste'. A new order had not yet begun, the postwar boom not suspected. The old England is not yet fully chewed through: run-down aristocrats still cling to castle ruins, politics disturbs the thoughts of ordinary burghers over their morning papers, the Communist Party is still an option, the Pill not yet. Threaded through all this is the silent calm of Quakerism: the puritan tradition at its gentlest, in its most dignified clothing, Quakers are presented as the force that did most to help Jews out of Germany in the 1930s.

Hetty is the daughter of an erudite man, mentally smashed in WW1, who lets his social connections lie fallow while he digs graves for his income. Quite another story is Hetty's saintly, pretty, suffering, hyper-attentive, Anglo-Catholic mother. In a ghostly way she extends everywhere: into her own tight grey circle of female acquaintances, into the life not only of the local Vicar but also of Hetty's boyfriend, the `glass of cold water' Eustace; into the past, into the future, above all into Hetty's heart and mind.
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Format: Paperback
The Flight of the Maidens recounts the summer of three young women, friends in a small town in Yorkshire, after each has received a generous and prestigious scholarship to a different university. The basic theme of the book is the process of separation of daughters from their family. It is 1946, and Britain is just beginning to recover from the Second World War. Gardam provides each of her heroines with a different struggle. One, Hetty, is deeply enmeshed with her mother and suffers an attendant obsessive and painful separation process on both sides. Una has middling relation to her somewhat distant and eccentric mother and is progressing nicely. Lieselotte is a Kindertransporte child, that is her Jewish parents sent her from Germany to England for safety in 1939. Presumably, they have died, but at least at the beginning of the book they are absent even from Lieselotte's memory. She lives at first in a kind of stunned forgetfulness in a silent Quaker household.

The three girls and Hetty's mother and father are fully drawn, effective characters. Two of the threads are peopled by some exotic and eccentric figures who might have wandered in from Evelyn Waugh or even P. G. Wodehouse. They are viable in their context, which is idle wealth.

No fighting is described in this book, but both the First and Second World War lie with a chilly hand. Una's father, a doctor, has killed himself as a result of what we would now call posttraumatic stress syndrome. Hetty's father suffers from similar psychological war damage, more of him later.

Besides Lieselotte's terrible story, the aftereffects of the Second World War remain in ration books, ruined buildings, and memories of friends killed in bombing raids.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By B. Robinson on February 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Were any of the other American readers puzzled, even put off, by the strange dialect attempts Ms Gardam made with the Californians? Brit writers seem to always come up with a weird polyglot of Manhattanese, Cowboy and even Valley Girl which may pass in Britain but left me trying to figure it out phonetically. This, obviously , interrupts the flow of the narrative and adds a touch of unintended humor and implausability.
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