REVIEW: Nice Girls Don’t by Sue Barnard
Who knows what secrets lie hidden in your family’s past?
Southern England, 1982.
At 25, single, and under threat of redundancy from her job in a local library, Emily feels as though her life is going nowhere – until the day when Carl comes into the library asking for books about tracing family history.
Carl is baffled by a mystery about his late grandfather: why is the name by which Carl had always known him different from the name on his old passport?
Fascinated as much by Carl himself as by the puzzle he wants to solve, Emily tries to help him find the answers. As their relationship develops, their quest for the truth takes them along a complicated paper-trail which leads, eventually, to the battlefields of the Great War.
In the meantime, Emily discovers that her own family also has its fair share of secrets and lies. And old sins can still cast long shadows…
Can Emily finally lay the ghosts of the past to rest and look forward to a brighter future?
A tale of discovery, love and fate.
Dear Ms. Barnard,
Yay, a librarian with a cardigan, who muses on the check outs and the returns as she re-shelves them from the trolley. Bwahaha – the shipping forecast. After reading “Watching the English,” I know what that is! Emily is so very English – mustn’t do this or has to do that. It doesn’t aid her that apparently her mother – Alice – was very strict about the Social Rules a Young Woman Must Follow. Poor Emily sounds like she’s had a time of it with boys – with no experience she fell for rotters who ruined her confidence and (unfortunately) hammered home the point of her mother’s lectures.
This is the early 1980s – the dawn of computers – yes, back in the dark ages with dinosaurs for those of you under 30. It’s also a time of uncertainty for Emily and her co-workers since the council has vaguely muttered about “retrenchment” of library jobs due to money woes. The story has a nice period feel to it. Emily is a product of her mother’s 1940s stricter upbringing when Nice Girls really didn’t do so many things thought routine now. It also mentions the Falklands crisis going on and the computer concept of GIGO.
OMG – microfiche readers. I remember those and let me tell you, you young whippersnappers – once you get off my lawn! – how lucky you are those are history now. Yikes this is a trip down memory lane. There is perhaps just a touch bit more detail about this info storage format than I needed but then I used to use it so maybe it’s here for the youngsters. Sort of like showing them what a typewriter or floppy disc looks like. And here we were just talking about librarians’ interest in what their patrons request – these librarians certainly do, though they don’t condemn. I did wince a little that everyone notices what the vicar’s wife wants to read.
Emily and Carl are just so nice. So sweet to each other and to everyone around them. I’m not usually a fan of the asshat character, even a mild dose of one, so this is a treat. Of course they’re being so nice and retiring that I thought it might take a while to actually get them together and believing that each is interested in the other. Emily’s assistance with Carl’s research into his past opens up a desire in her to finally find answers for her own family questions. Ones her mother was unwilling to answer. The truth, gained from her aunt, reveals painful events during WWII which forever shaped her whole family.
Tea – the British response to anything upsetting. There, drink a cup of strong tea with lots of sugar and you’ll be alright. Emily needs the strongest cup she’s ever drunk after her Aunt May finally spills the rest of the family secrets. Oh, yes there is a reason Emily’s mother was always lecturing Emily about what Nice Girls Did or Didn’t Do. Emily’s world is totally rocked and I’m gobsmacked by the how and why of it. This did almost become a book cliché that every secret of Emily or Carl’s family’s background was a whopper and gently got delivered to them by a loving person.
Well, once Carl and Emily gather enough courage to admit their mutual feelings, whew! things move quickly for them. Almost a little too quickly. Starting a relationship was believable but for these two retiring people zooming straight to marriage was jolting. I adored the slightly old fashioned vocabulary Carl uses to describe one of Emily’s beastly former boyfriends (callous brute). Carl certainly makes up for Emily’s past disappointments with dating. And then some.
This is a charming little story about lovely people who bond over microfiche while investigating old family secrets. The details about how to navigate genealogical searches might be of more interest to information geeks but the (maybe a little fast) romance is equal access interesting. B-