At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock

Written by Jane Davis
Review by Sally Zigmond

London, 1949. Four women with apparently nothing in common have more in common than at first appears. Caroline Wilby has no other option than to leave home and earn money for her mother and young sister. Ursula Delancy is a star of stage and screen and prey to journalists for her scandalous private life. Patrice Hawtree, a rich heiress, was a well-known debutante before marrying a man who relies on her money for his gambling and drinking. Determined to prevent any scandal, Patrice plays along. Fourth and final is the most the most notorious woman of the post-war years: Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in Britain.

This novel presents an evocative portrait of the age – its politics, the post-war privations of rationing, and women who are supposed to put up and shut up as they raise the children forced upon them and deal with the consequences.

This is the first time I have come across this author, and what a revelation! She writes stunning prose that keeps the pages turning. She understands her women, their faults, and the way they pull together when the chips are down. Some succeed, but too many, like poor Ruth Ellis, fall between the cracks. In this telling, the reader feels that not only should Ruth not have been hanged, but she should never have been found guilty. Highly recommended.