In the hunt for Iolanthe Green, Anna Treadway takes you through a simpler time in many ways, with a notable absence of all the technology and urgency that dominates our existence today. This is what I found quite charming about the book – stepping into a time where you seemed to survive on tea and toast, your entire wardrobe could fit in one bag, you walked to get from A to B and you felt wicked if you stayed on the bus beyond the stop that you had paid up to.
I definitely had preconceptions before reading Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars – as we all do when we read the blurb on a book. I was expecting a really gripping mystery that would take me behind the scenes of the theatre district - so that I could literally peek behind the curtain of a world that I've never seen. This didn't quite transpire, but I wasn't disappointed because instead I was taken on a tour of 1960s Soho. But even this was secondary to witnessing some of the less pleasant aspects of life and relationships in this time.
Miranda Emmerson does a great job of highlighting the multitude of social issues that reigned during the mid 1960s. The story winds its way through racism, social hierarchy, police brutality, unplanned pregnancies - a time with some very big restrictions on personal freedom as abortions and gay relationships would both still be illegal for a couple of years. My overactive sense of fairness left me continuing to hope that the characters Anna and Aloysius would stand up and rebel against their treatment and segregation - and in small ways they did - but ultimately they were somewhat resigned to their place in the world. Ahh the frustration!!
Now this kind of book isn't normally my cup of tea as I prefer to escape from the ugliness of our world when I read - or at least know the characters will have a win somewhere in the mix; but I still found it quietly entertaining and feeling very grateful for the rights that I was born in to!
Miss Treadway and the field of stars
by Miranda Emmerson
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand