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Dear Mr Bigelow: A Transatlantic Friendship by Frances Woodsford
  

Dear Mr Bigelow: A Transatlantic Friendship

Biography / Autobiography   

RRP £15.99

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Sue Baker's view...

Mr Bigelow was the father of Frances Woodsford’s American penfriend; hearing he was old and lonely she started to write to him in 1947, the letters stopping only with his death in 1961. The letters reveal her life (dotty mother, exasperating brother, awful boss, boring job) and are a wonderful read, each letter carefully crafted, informing Mr Bigelow of events in Bournemouth with some lovely set-pieces, the saga of learning to drive and the dreadful first car and her brother’s many girlfriends.

Please note that we are awaiting an extract from the publisher for this title.

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Synopsis

Dear Mr Bigelow: A Transatlantic Friendship by Frances Woodsford

Dear Mr Bigelow is an enchanting selection of weekly 'pen-pal' letters written between 1949 and 1961 from an unmarried woman working at the Pier Approach Baths in Bournemouth, to a wealthy American widower, living on Long Island, New York. Frances Woodsford and Commodore Paul Bigelow never met, and there was no romance - she was in her forties when he died aged ninety-seven - yet their epistolary friendship was her lifeline. The Saturday Specials as Frances dubbed them, are brilliantly-packed missives, sparked with comic genius, from post-war England. We follow her travails at the Baths (and her ghastly boss Mr Bond); the hilarious weekly Civil Defence classes as the Cold War advances; her attempts to shake off Dr Russell, an unwanted suitor; life at home with Mother, and Mac, her charming ne'er-do-well brother; and, escapades in their jointly-owned car, a 1934 Ford 8 called Hesperus. Most importantly, we get to know Frances - and her deep affection for Mr Bigelow. She started to write to him as a way of thanking his daughter for the clothes and food parcels she sent. But what had begun as a good turn offered Frances the chance to escape a trying job, and to expound with elegance, wit and verve on topical subjects from home and abroad, bringing us a beady commentary on her life and times that leaps vividly from the page. Her letters to Mr Bigelow during his final illness are a tender and moving farewell, a touching conclusion to a unique record.

About the Author

Frances Woodsford was born in 1913. She was exceptionally bright at school but her father's death in 1926 interrupted the prospects of an academic career. She left school to work as a secretary, to help provide for the family during the Depression. After taking an administrative job at a local garage, she taught herself engineering and ran practical workshops during the Second World War. When the war ended she took a position as secretary in the Public Baths Department of Bournemouth Town Council, where she worked for the duration of her correspondence with Mr Bigelow. Frances had eighty or more correspondents, but Mr Bigelow was particularly special and received over seven hundred letters from Frances during the twelve years that they wrote to one another, until his death in 1961. She continued to work for the Council until her retirement in 1974; her final position was as archivist. Extraordinarily, in 2006, Frances's letters to Mr Bigelow came to light and were returned to her. They are the testimony of an ordinary lifebut their vigorous prose suggests that with other opportunities, Frances could have been a professional writer. Frances never married. She continues to live in Bournemouth, aged 95.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st October 2009

Author

Frances Woodsford

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Publisher

Chatto & Windus an imprint of Vintage

Format

Hardback
400 pages

Categories

Biography / Autobiography

Diaries, letters & journals
Social & cultural history

ISBN

9780701184803

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