Back in the fifties and sixties career novels were all the rage, particularly those aimed at girls. I read them in the eighties and was first of all puzzled, and then fascinated, by them.  There was Jane, Young Author (!), Juliet in Publishing and Molly Qualifies as a Librarian (not by going to university, though, as I was planning).  Of course, these careers were only there to fill in the time before marriage inevitably ensued!  Hester: Ship’s Officer is one of The Bodley Head’s career novels.  It was published in 1957 and from a modern standpoint it’s absolutely hilarious.  But in spite of everything it’s a remarkably good story.  Many of these career novels (which I love and collect) are little more than tracts for different jobs but this has plot and character and everything!  The author is Valerie Baxter, actually Laurence Meynell, who wrote a lot of the better career novels.  Obviously I like this because it’s set on a ship.  Or, at least, that’s what you’d think.  Actually it takes Hester about half the book to get on board…

Between Two Seas is by Marie-Louise Jensen.  The author is half English/half Danish and the book is set in the two countries at the end of the nineteenth century.  The heroine is Marianne, the illegitimate daughter of Esther.  At the start of the novel they are living in Grimsby but the action really begins after Esther’s death when Marianne sets sail for Denmark in search of her unknown father. In my opinion, the book’s major strength is its description.  I’m predisposed to envisage the sea but Marie-Louise Jensen certainly created a clear setting for me in the north Danish fishing village of Skagen.  Having been there since reading the book (because of reading the book if the truth were to be told) I can see how well it was described.  My only slight problem with the book is that everything falls into place quite easily.  Marianne leaves Grimsby with limited money, speaking no Danish and not knowing where Skagen is but somehow she arrives with little difficulty.  I am also very envious of the ease with which she seems to master Danish.  I spent two years learning Norwegian, a very similar language, and I still find it pretty hard going in spite of a number of visits to Norway.  But my quibbles are professional; on a personal basis I really enjoyed reading it.

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