Hands across the Tea-shop Table
The novel is set in the 1920s and 1940s. Both world wars are elided, the one before it opens, the other between one chapter and the next, but in the background is the fierce struggle of the suffragettes, when Lilian, Harriet’s mother, had been sent to prison. A clever, principled woman, widowed young, she despairs of her daughter, who has left school without an exam or an ambition, and sends her to help look after the two children of Caroline Macmillan, one-time fellow suffragette, still dearest friend. It is in this worthy, book-lined, vegetarian household that Harriet falls for Vesey, nephew of Caroline’s husband.