March 2014 Non-Fiction Book of the Month.
One woman at the heart of this biography but with two very different lives, as a young privileged member of the upper middle-classes she went to work for Bletchley during WWII, as a Mother she was distant yet clinging, an alcoholic who descended into Alzheimer’s and old age. If it wasn’t for the diaries that Anne Segrave kept, Elisa would never have found out about her mother’s other life. It’s a life that’s hard to square with the woman she became as wife and mother but the diaries hold the clues in Elisa Segrave’s fascinating detective story recreating her mother’s life.
Like for Like Reading
The Secret Life of Bletchley Park, Sinclair McKay
'A typical day on the 4 to 12 shift, as I am at present, so that the sheer agony of it may be placed on record for me to look back on, perhaps one day in the far distant future when this period may be seen like a nightmare and be mercifully semi-observed in oblivion so that I shall remember only the glory of my position as the first and only woman on the watch and holding the most responsible position of any woman in the Hut.' October 12th 1942. When Elisa Segrave uncovered a cache of wartime diaries written by her mother, she had no idea that she would be brought face to face with a character utterly different from the troubled woman who had become so reliant on her. Now, on the pages before her, Segrave encountered Anne Hamilton-Grace, a young woman who had grown up in immense privilege and luxury but who leapt at the first opportunity to join the war effort. Through determination she excelled in the world of secret intelligence. Leaving the world of finishing school and hunt balls behind her, Anne's journey took her to Hut 3 at Bletchley Park, to Bomber Command in Grantham and, finally, to a newly liberated Germany. In The Girl From Station X, Segrave opens the pages of her mother's diaries to us and recreates her life both before and after the war. At once a vivid recreation of a dramatic era and a powerful portrait of a mother-daughter relationship, this is an original and affecting work about what it means to come to know someone through their writing; about how Anne unwittingly found a way to link her life with her daughter's decades after they had given up trying to communicate.
In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.
'A fascinating glimpse into a lost world of upper-class privilege and the dubious happiness it brings. It explores the complex and contradictory feelings of a daughter towards her mother, and the surprising effect of war on a young woman who found she was suddenly necessary to her country, and who rose to the occasion in a remarkable way. A riveting read.'
Deborah Moggach, author Tulip Fever and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
'The Girl from Station X is really two books in one, both of them riveting and sad and full of surprises. Certainly the reader will close this book moved by Anne's youthful courage and brio, and what became of it. Segrave's story has wider resonance, of course, in that all our mothers have unknown lives, their own secret hopes and fears. We who are mothers have secrets from our children, too.'
Cressida Connolly Sunday Telegraph
'A rich repository of missed and mixed messages - the natural reticence of parents and children to reveal their private lives to each other, the daughter's discovery of documentation, her mother's forgetting. Perhaps, when it comes to secrets, you neither discover nor keep exactly the ones you intend.'
Claire Harman Guardian
'Segrave's latest is a pignant family memoir, uncovered wen she found a cache of her mother's wartime diaries in the attic. The author provides her own sharp commentary on extracts from the diary, so present and past combine in a wonderfully evocative way.'
Sebastian Shakespeare Tatler
'Perceptive, tender biography. As an intelligently unorthodox diarist in her own right, Elisa is enthralled by the experience of 'gradually uncovering a woman I had never expected to know so well.'
Iain Finlayson Saga
'A fascinating snapshot of a young woman thrown unexpectedly into an irrevocably changing world. The real strength of this book though is not as a wartime adventure but as a detailed, sometimes uncomfortable analysis of a mother-daughter relationship. It's a book which is sometimes uncomfortable to read, but will have changed its writer's life for the better.'
Giulia Rhodes Sunday Express
'The diary is pure gold. If only life could be so rich, without the war.'
'This combines intimate family memoir with extensive material about the code-breaking work at Bletchley Park, at which her mother excelled.'
Publication date: 06/03/2014
Publisher: Union Books
Publication date: 06/03/2014
Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd
|Publication date:||6th March 2014|
|Publisher:||Aurum Press Ltd|
|Genres:||Biography / Autobiography, Books of the Month, Reader Reviewed Books, History, Reading Groups,|
|Categories:||Biography: historical, political & military,|
Elisa Segrave is the author of The Diary of a Breast, about her battle with cancer, and the novel Ten Men (both published by Faber.) She writes for many newspapers and magazines, including the London Review of Books, the Guardian, the Independent and The Lady. Below is a Q&A with this author. 1. How did you first come across your mother’s diaries? In autumn 1997, my mother’s large house in Sussex was put up for sale. She had had Alzheimer’s already for five years; she was almost helpless, and for a year ...More About Elisa Segrave