This is the story of a young woman trying to establish herself in London in the early 60s. Arriving in the city with £5, Stella is an art graduate who takes on a series of menial jobs in order to survive as she hops from one unsatisfactory room to another. What is apparent early on is how precarious life is for young women like Stella – income is uncertain and living on the margins is always likely to prove tough. It sometimes works to her advantage, and she learns to play the system. ‘… A new job was easy to get in any lunchtime. Thursday, dash into an agency, arrange it, leave quietly at 5:30 Friday and reappear somewhere else on Monday morning.’
The novel’s structure follows a series of encounters, often seemingly random, of affairs and friendships as Stella finds her feet. It suits the narrative, and reflects a sense of uncertainty in Stella’s life, as she moves from relationship to relationship. What is clear is that the early 60s is not a period of equality – contraception is rarely used, and women are vulnerable.
‘Not every woman was on the pill and Stella had yet to meet any man who had a condom. If she had produced a packet of them, her name would have been spread round the pubs as an easy lay, quite beyond the pale.’
There’s a frenetic quality to the novel that mirrors the ever-changing social world Stella seeks to join. The weekends are filled with parties in rooms which usually end up feeling unsatisfactory. ‘Posses of partygoers would arrive later from other pubs or on the run from dull parties that had died the death.’ A fear of missing out is ever present in this youthful, transient world, and I wanted Stella to find moments of calm, as the pressure of her life became obvious.
The paintings she does are a part of her way of settling into new place, and gives her life a depth she struggles to find elsewhere. Stella is a young woman in a very transient world, but one is never in any doubt that she will survive it. This is a fascinating insight into a period of London history brought vividly to life.
Blurb: Arriving in London with £5, Stella rapidly begins hopping from one disastrous job, bedsit and boyfriend to another. All the time she is trying to paint pictures and write poetry. At last she gets a place in Hampstead but various men distract her from reaching the goal of holding an exhibition. An ever-changing group of friends moves her along from place to place. After each drawback Stela moves on, disaster after disaster, while the tally of of pictures shrinks to 36. Set in the heady days of 1960s Swinging London, this vividly charts one girl’s track through the untidy years at its height.
Pat Jourdan trained as a painter at Liverpool College of Art -some of her paintings can be seen on Saatchi.com. Always balancing writing with painting, she has won the Molly Keane Short Story Award, second in the Michael McLaverty Short Story Award, and various other prizes. One Hundred Views of NW3 is her fourth novel.
“ I am used to producing a painting from start to finish and self-publishing gives the same creative possibility. It has the same excitement, the change from private to public.”
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