Monday 4 December 2023

The Semi-Detached Women - Alex Quaid

For a young woman in 1960s England, falling in love can be a crime—and could cost her everything . . .

In 1963 Manchester, England, a pregnancy is enough to get eighteen-year-old Janine thrown out by her mother—regardless of whether the baby’s father is Janine’s much older married boss, who’s taken advantage of her. Having spent her lonely childhood immersed in romantic books, Janine gets practical and rents out one-half of a stone cottage to wait for childbirth.

She isn’t alone long though. Laura, a newly divorced with an eight-year-old boy and a difficult past of her own, moves into the other half of the house. The two women become friends, and their relationship grows. But after Janine’s daughter is born, a social worker starts hovering, strongly suggesting that Janine allow the Catholic unwed mother’s home to put her child up for adoption.

To hold on to the happiness she’s found, Janine will have to stay strong against malicious forces—and accept help from some unexpected friends—in this richly emotional novel about finding out who you can truly depend on and who you really are.

What did I think?

The rainbow and the two women on the beautiful cover of The Semi-Detached Women tells the reader that this is a romance with a difference.  Not only is this a romance set in the sixties, but it's also the heartwarming relationship between two women.

I loved both the main characters of Janine and Laura.  Janine is a young pregnant unwed woman and what a scandal this is in the 1960s.  Forced out of her home she travels to Manchester where nobody knows her to make a new start with her baby.  Laura finds it hard to trust anyone after divorcing her cheating husband and she sets up home with her son next door to Janine.  

It's delightful to watch Janine and Laura's friendship develop and, although both women are confused by their feelings at first, it's lovely to see their relationship grow into something deeper.  It's quite thought-provoking for me (as a child of the seventies) to explore homosexuality in the sixties.  I thought it was illegal back then, and it was, but what I didn't realise is that it was only illegal for men.  It's quite sad really, considering the sixties had the whole free love ethos.  Clearly, free love wasn't free for all.

Alex Quaid uses words as building blocks to reconstruct the 1960s word by word and I felt as if I had stepped back in time.  I was so mad when the church tried to take Janine's perfectly healthy and much loved baby from her.  I  think perhaps people of the sixties found unwed mothers as shocking as homosexuals.  There's a hippy in a campervan in the story and something Ianto said really stayed with me, so much so that I wanted to share a quote from the book:
"You think in labels, man, but she doesn't.  She's just a woman in love."
Be more Ianto and stop thinking in labels!  The world will be a much better place for it.

So beautifully written, sensitive, thought-provoking and quietly affecting, The Semi-Detached Women is an outstanding and unforgettable novel.  

I chose to read a digital ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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