Well, we’re back to career novels with no plot here. The blurb doesn’t even mention the main character or the setting. What it talks about is the almost impossibility of getting a job as a continuity girl! Presumably in the world of the 1950s they were all girls; they had to type after all!
Our heroine is twenty-two year-old Frances Milne, recently returned to the family home in Brighton after a year working in New York. We get vague background details and a sense that Frances is reasonably intelligent and mature but aimless. Out of nowhere in particular she decides she wants to work as a continuity girl in films. This gives rise to many explanations from the author about how difficult this is and how much luck plays a part. Apparently that’s all the fault of the unions.
However, Frances knows someone who knows someone in the industry and gets the chance (at a lower rate of pay) to be assistant continuity girl on a film being shot in London. And from then on the novel is merely a description of the work. There are walk-on parts for John Gielgud, Joyce Grenfell and Michael Hordern – and possibly other real-life actors and technicians that I don’t have the knowledge to recognise.
And that’s it. Angela Mack is a decent writer so the book held my attention but gripping fiction it is not. I can’t help wondering who at Chatto & Windus had oversight of the Mary Dunn Career Novel series as the quality varies so much. If, like me, you’re interested in getting a glimpse of how life for the young middle class woman was subtly changing in the late 1950s, though, you’ll probably enjoy this.