As a teenager I collected Bodley Head career novels. I had loads; they were easy to find. And then, in one of our moves, I got rid of them. Naturally, later in life, I regretted throwing them out and started to collect them again. Now they are much harder to find and MUCH more expensive. Still I have persevered and branched out into books from other publishers.
Air Hostess Ann by Pamela Hawken was one of the first titles I ever read. Like many (perhaps most) of the books it was published in the 1950s and in some ways it’s hilarious seen from the perspective of the twenty-first century. But the story here stands up. That’s not an inevitability. Many of these titles have very little plot and were written almost as information books.
I was reminded of this one recently as flew across the world, home from New Zealand. It took me just over thirty six hours, owing to the travel disruption and an eight hour transit time in Dubai. The eponymous heroine of today’s book would never have imagined that such a speedy journey could ever be possible. Her first flight from London to Bermuda (with a stop in the Azores for refuelling) took twenty two hours.
In many ways these books are about a different world, a world where flying was not commonplace, where the idea of a middle-class girl having a career was still unusual. They are, in fact, wonderful pieces of social history. But the best of them are also great stories.