A Woman's Age

A Woman’s Age

(1979) Pan

‘An intelligent delight. Mrs. Billington writes with the wit of an Evelyn Waugh and the leisure of an Arnold Bennett.’ The New York Times

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It was a huge change of direction for me when I wrote this long family saga (589 pages in small print paperback). Before it, I had mostly written short intense dramas, influenced in their form by my husband’s work as a film director. I decided to trace the change in a woman’s position in British society from the beginning of the twentieth century to the then present date – late 1970s. I developed my structure by using three generations of women who in various ways were involved in most of the big events of the century. The blurb describes it like this:

‘Stepping into the world of country houses and nannies at the turn of the century, we follow the life of Violet Hesketh – from childhood, through two world wars, the roaring twenties, the depression, through years of social and political upheaval, to the fulfilment of her ambitions as a leading public figure and politician in the 1970s. As the lives of Violet, her daughter, her friends and lovers, interweave over 70 years, we see reflected in their ambitions and desires, their hopes and fears, the changing face of a nation.’ I was writing ‘A Woman’s Age’ in the middle Seventies when feminism was at last striking home. The most interesting part of the process was the interviews I did with my mother, the writer Elizabeth Longford, and her friends. They were mostly born in 1906 or thereabouts so, like Violet, their experiences spanned the century. My mother lived till 2002. Some time I must try and find those recording tapes.

‘Remember those old-fashioned novels that we used to walk into, as if into a house full of genuinely interesting people and spend a week or two listening and be sad to leave? This one of them, an intelligent delight… Mrs. Billington writes with the wit of an Evelyn Waugh and the leisure of an Arnold Bennett. Her characters, inside their excited talk and their eccentricities, breathe and glow.’ The New York Times

‘An infinite variety of human knots fasten down this large family saga… Billington handles it with assurance, ease, warmth and wit’ Newsweek

‘Kept me utterly content through two long evenings and what greater recommendation can there be?’ Margaret Forster

‘Through four generations, from the glittering Edwardian age to our own makeshift times… Rachel Billington is first rate.’ Daily Telegraph

‘What ‘The Women’s Room’ said about women in this country, Billington’s novel says in the most elegant upper-class terms about Englishwomen in the years between World War I and the present day’ Publisher’s Weekly

Suggested reading: A Woman’s Life, The Garish Day

A Woman's Life The Garish Day