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Business as Usual by Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford

Business as Usual by Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford

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Gayle recommends:

A book so delightful I burst into tears on finishing it. Originally published in 1933 and recently rediscovered and reissued by the brilliant Handheld Press, Business as Usual tells the story of Hilary Fane, a young woman from Edinburgh who, in her year of independence before her planned marriage to a busy surgeon, moves to London and gets a job on the Book Floor of an Oxford Street department store. It’s all told through her letters home and interdepartmental memos, and it will make you wish you still wrote letters, and lament the fact that, even if you did, they’d never be as witty and charming as Hilary’s. If this is all sounding a little whimsical and twee, I promise you it isn’t; in between the jolly anecdotes about life on the shopfloor, it touches on the darker aspects of life as a single woman in London – damp, cold digs, making rent, unwanted pregnancies…’

From the publisher:

Business as Usual by Jane Oliver and Ann Stafford is charming. It’s light, intelligent, heart-warming, funny, and entertaining. It’s deeply interesting for the descriptions of shopping in the 1930s, and for its unflinching descriptions of social conditions, poverty and illegitimacy.

Business As Usual was first published in 1933. It’s a delightful illustrated novel in letters from Hilary Fane, an Edinburgh girl fresh out of university. She is determined to support herself by her own earnings in London for a year, despite the mutterings of her surgeon fiancée.

After a nervous beginning looking for a job while her savings rapidly diminish, she finds work as a typist in the London department store of Everyman’s (a very thin disguise for Selfridges). She rises rapidly through the ranks to work in the library, where she has to enforce modernising systems on her entrenched and frosty colleagues.