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Review: A Pin to See the Peepshow, by F Tennyson Jesse

Pages: 401
Original date of publication: 1934
My edition: 1979 (Virago)
Why I decided to read: It’s on the list of Virago Modern Classics
How I acquired my copy: Amazon UK May 2011

A Pin to See the Peepshow is a book I’ve been itching to read for a long while—ever since I read F Tennyson Jesse’s The Lacquer Lady last summer. It’s hard to find copies of this Virago reprint, so I was lucky to find mine online.

A Pin to See the Peepshow is a fictionalization of the Thompson-Bywaters murder case of the 1920s, when a young housewife was accused of being complicit with her lover in the murder of her husband. Edith Thompson is renamed Julia in the novel. The daughter of middle-class clerk, Julia grew up an imaginative, dreamy and romantic child. After school, she took a position in a dressmaker’s shop, where she was promoted several times and even got the opportunity to travel to Paris to buy clothes for the shop. Julia marries a much older man to whom she’s not all that attracted; and has an affair with Leo Carr.

What can I say but that I absolutely loved this novel! F Tennyson Jesse’s prose style is engaging; you really get involved in the story, and not just because of the subject matter. As I’ve said before, F Tennyson Jesse was a crime journalist, so the story is written in the way that newspaper article might be. You get to see the story from Julia’s point of view, even though she’s not really a sympathetic character. It was harder, however, for me to understand Leo’s motivations. As such, I felt detached from his character, unable to see why he does what he does. In all, this was a stunning novel about a woman who couldn’t tell the difference between reality and imagination, and how, when reality intruded, the bottom fell out of the passionate love affair she’d built up in her mind.


Danielle said…
How funny that you have just read this--I watched Another Life over the weekend--a dramatization of the Bywaters-Thompson case and pulled Fred & Edie off my shelf to read (also have the Tennyson book)--I wrote something about it to post tomorrow. Now I want to read this right now, too!

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