Friday, May 12, 2017

Book Review - The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson

Book Synopsis
A riveting glimpse of life and love during and after World War II—a heart-warming, touching, and thoroughly absorbing true story of a world gone by.

In the spring of 1939, with the Second World War looming, two determined twenty-four-year-olds, Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver, decided to open a marriage bureau. They found a tiny office on London’s Bond Street and set about the delicate business of matchmaking. Drawing on the bureau’s extensive archives, Penrose Halson—who many years later found herself the proprietor of the bureau—tells their story, and those of their clients.

From shop girls to debutantes; widowers to war veterans, clients came in search of security, social acceptance, or simply love. And thanks to the meticulous organization and astute intuition of the Bureau’s matchmakers, most found what they were looking for.

Penrose Halson draws from newspaper and magazine articles, advertisements, and interviews with the proprietors themselves to bring the romance and heartbreak of matchmaking during wartime to vivid, often hilarious, life in this unforgettable story of a most unusual business.


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Review
The Marriage Bureau is a charming nonfiction book about a matrimonial service started in London, 1939 by two young women, Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver.  The book begins by telling about their lives before they started the Bureau, and then their early adventures in matchmaking.  When they first started they had a small office and clients had to climb a ladder and wait on the roof!   Each chapter tells about another adventure at the Bureau.  

I have to say again how charming this book is.  It evokes a fascinating time, the World War II homefront.  Heather and Mary are likeable people who have a knack for matchmaking and who really want to help others with their efforts.

The experiences recounted in the book vary, but many of the stories are heartwarming and often quite funny.  To give an example of the variety of stories in the book, you will meet a spy, a man who is identified as "The Sheikh," and a young woman who undergoes a makeover to find the life (and love) of her dreams.  The writing, by Penrose Halson, is lively and engaging.  The author took over The Marriage Bureau with her husband, so she has a real insight into the business and life of a matchmaker.

The Marriage Bureau concludes with an interesting section that includes Requirements of Female Clients 1939 - circa 1949, Requirements of Male Clients 1939 - circa 1949, Interviewers Comments (same time period), and Reading Group Questions.

I heartily recommend this delightful book to anyone interested in the 1940's, especially London during wartime.  It would make a wonderful group read, and I think it would generate some lively discussions!   The Marriage Bureau is a treat.

Author Bio
When Penrose was 25 and still unmarried, her mother sent her to the Katharine Allen Marriage & Advice Bureau.  Twenty years later, after a career in teaching, writing and editing, she and her management consultant husband Bill bought the Bureau.  They also acquired The Marriage Bureau, which had been set up in 1939 by two 24-year-olds.  As Bill had predicted, matchmaking suited Penrose down to the ground, and they remain happily in touch with many former clients who visit them in London.

I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.

1 comment:

trish said...

I love the premise of this! Matching making before we had online dating. Makes me wonder who I might end up with if I let someone set me up! :)

Thanks for being on this tour!