A Respectable Woman

Written by Susanna Bavin
Review by Douglas Kemp

Lancashire in the early 1920s, and Nell struggles to make a living for herself after losing her family in the Great War. When she meets and marries Stan Hibbert, believing herself to be fortunate to find a single, eligible man, amongst the ocean of spinsters looking for one of the few surviving members of the species, it seems that her worries are behind her. But she is quickly disillusioned by the drab and impoverished life she leads. Discovering Stan’s infidelity is the final straw, and she takes the opportunity to leave him, taking their children with her. In Manchester she claims to be a widow and finds a measure of stability and happiness in work, even though it is a constant struggle as a single mother to make ends meet. But then the past catches up with her, making life very difficult, but Nell is very much up for the battle.

Nell’s world seems to be filled with either saintly heroes or vicious villains – there doesn’t seem to be much room for the more typical average sort of human. A Respectable Woman is an entertaining story, with good plotting and pace, set firmly in the relentlessly grim English northern industrial heartland.