‘Scenario Two, The Letter, Mr Hilliard, Mrs Clyde-Cameron,’ said Briggs, who wore a coloured tie in lieu of a personality.’ Would you care to run through the lines before we light?’
Their Finest Hour
‘No’ said Ambrose, just as Cecy said, ‘Oh, yes, dear,’ and he found himself sitting beside her in The Browns’ Living-Room, a two-wall set papered with cabbage roses and furnished with what looked like the sweepings of a junk shop.
Cecy pressed her features into a simper and began to act.
Long-listed for the Orange Prize, but not finding a place on the gloomy short list, Lissa Evans’s Their Finest Hour and a Half is a real treasure – funny, engaging and surprisingly illuminating, with a splendidly original plot centering on WW2 propaganda films, and appealing characters. It’s also rather topical at the moment, as Britain remembers the events of 1940.
Catrin Cole leaves her job at a small advertising agency and moves to the Ministry of Information. Work on the script for a morale-boosting film about the Dunkirk evacuation takes her to Norfolk at the same time as Edith Beadmore, who maintains the costumes of the waxworks at Madame Tussaud’s until she is forced to leave London, her nerves shattered by two near-misses in the Blitz. She goes to work for her slave-driver cousin Verna, at Badgeham Bay. Former matinee idol, Ambrose Hilliard is involved in the film along with dull Arthur Frith, a storeman with the East Surrey Regiment who, to his amazement, has been enrolled to act as Special Military Adviser. Special mention must also be given to Cerberus the dog.
This is the truest and most enjoyable novel about home-front life I’ve read; it’s touching and hilarious.
(Christopher Fowler The Independent 22 March 2009)
Their Finest Hour - and a Half is available in paperback, price £7.99