A charming and witty novel, set in a small country town in 1919. 'When Adelaide Nightingale, Louisa Worthington, Maggie O'Connell and Pearl McLeary threw caution to the winds in the most brazen way imaginable, disgrace was inevitable.'It's September 1919. The war is over, and everyone who was going to die from the flu has done so. But there's a shortage of husbands and women in strife will flounder without a male to act on their behalf.And in the southern NSW town of Prospect, four ladies bereft of men have problems that threaten to overwhelm them.Beautiful Louisa Worthington, whose dashing husband died for King and Country, is being ruined by the debts he left behind. Young Maggie O'Connell, who lost her mother in childbirth and her father to a redhead, is raising her two wayward brothers and fighting for land she can't prove is hers.Adelaide Nightingale has a husband, but he's returned from the war in a rage and is refusing to tackle the thieving manager of their famous family store.Pearl McLeary, Adelaide's new housekeeper, must find her missing fiancé before it's too late and someone dies.Thank God these desperate ladies have a solution- a part-time husband who will rescue them all. To find him, they'll advertise. To afford him, they'll share . . .
Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband Review
- January 1, 1970Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews*https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.comAustralian author Barbara Toner has released a new historical fiction title that comes with an ultra catchy title, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband. This book, put simply, is just a wonderful ode to female friendship, gender and the social mores that existed in post World War I. With light and dark areas, the issues presented in Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband are told with a delicate balance of both conviction and humour.Barbara *https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.comAustralian author Barbara Toner has released a new historical fiction title that comes with an ultra catchy title, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband. This book, put simply, is just a wonderful ode to female friendship, gender and the social mores that existed in post World War I. With light and dark areas, the issues presented in Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband are told with a delicate balance of both conviction and humour.Barbara Toner grounds her latest novel in the year 1919, in a tiny rural township called Prospect, in New South Wales. Following the end of World War I and the subsequent onset of the Spanish Flu, many men have not returned home. The lucky few who have returned home find their minds ravaged by the things they have seen and done in the war. Prospect is no different to many other towns in Australia that have been touched by war at this point in history. One of the impacts of the war is the distinct lack of husbands. For many women, such as the characters in this novel, it was quite overwhelming to try to keep up with the demands of the roles which were previously occupied by men. Four women from Prospect recognise this problem and decide to act in a decisive manner. Together, this foursome will advertise for a part-time husband, which they will share between them, in the hope that he can rescue them from their individual woes. It is a ludicrous idea, attracting community scorn, but will it work?The title of this novel is so eye catching and it immediately attracted me to this novel. However, for me personally, the era presented in this book, post World War I, is what initially encouraged me to select this novel to read. Barbara Toner has done a remarkable job with her setting. She offers the reader a wonderful evocation of 1919, small town Australia. Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband is a novel that has so much to say about the female condition, the intricacies of friendship and the moral codes of Australia’s past.Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband offers a solid contribution to the Australian historical fiction genre, providing a superb study of post World War I Australian society. Toner’s prose is refined and accurately reflective of the era in which it is set, 1919. Toner also has a wonderful way with words. I enjoyed her mix of tongue in cheek humour at pertinent times in the novel, which offsets the more serious elements tackled within this book. These issues range from PTSD, to blackmail and sole parenting duties. Toner tackles each and every one of these delicate issues with great care.The highlight of Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband, was the historical representation of the era and locale in which the book is set. Toner paints a vivid picture of life just after the war. She makes us wholly aware of the losses experienced by many towns in Australia, through her focus on Prospect, a small town in rural New South Wales. On top of this excellent recreation of 1919, Toner also takes the time to show us the problematics of this time, especially in regards to gender. Toner explores the tensions that existed and fallout that occurred during a time where women were struggling to be seen and heard, while men were adjusting to normality after the horrors of the war. It certainly was a difficult time indeed, which understandably gives rise to the interesting main scenario presented in Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband.This novel is very much driven by the four characters or ‘respectable ladies’. Adelaide, Louisa, Maggie and Pearl are all fully fleshed out characters. I enjoyed exploring their individual back stories and uncovering their secrets. We witness their ups and downs, which comes complete with plenty of drama, frivolity and a touch of romance along the way. It really was a fascinating and resourceful community, full of moments of comradery. By the book’s close, thanks to Toner’s fine characterisation efforts, I felt I had a firm grasp on each woman’s individual tendencies. I came to admire different aspects of all the main characters that appear in this book. And, I definitely wasn’t keen to say goodbye to this fine group of ladies. Thank goodness Toner has plans for a follow up edition to this grand novel!It is clear that Toner had fun writing this novel. The enthusiasm she applies to her plot and her characters was evident throughout my time with Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband. I am pleased to hear we will get another turn with the ladies from Prospect. I look forward to this welcome sequel with anticipation.*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband is book #8 of the Australian Women Writers Challengemore
- January 1, 1970Jessica Mhttp://jessjustreads.comFour Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband by Barbara Toner is a historical fiction novel set in the small country town of Prospect in 1919. The war and the Spanish flu are over, but four women in town are struggling. They each face different dilemmas and they need help. Louise needs to clear the debt left behind by her deceased husband, Maggie needs help fighting for land, Adelaide’s family store is being pilfered by their manager, and Pearl’s fiancé is missing and s http://jessjustreads.comFour Respectable Ladies Seek Part-Time Husband by Barbara Toner is a historical fiction novel set in the small country town of Prospect in 1919. The war and the Spanish flu are over, but four women in town are struggling. They each face different dilemmas and they need help. Louise needs to clear the debt left behind by her deceased husband, Maggie needs help fighting for land, Adelaide’s family store is being pilfered by their manager, and Pearl’s fiancé is missing and she needs help tracking him down.These troubles mount on the women each and every day, and they don’t have support from the town. They advertise for an external party — a part-time husband to help solve each of their problems. Enter Martin Duffy.“Martin Duffy, so much more to Maggie’s taste than the Mayor, was having a very early lunch in the sunny corner of Mrs Quirk’s pub, writing his mother an amusing letter about the ladies’ hopes for him, which he had every intention of fulfilling.”This is a novel about female friendship and identity. At a time where women were laughed at or cast aside, these women team up to take charge. They refuse to roll over and let others force them to give up what they want. These woman are confident, decisive and ballsy. At first, they don’t like each other. They have preconceived notions about each other, and so there are a lot of arguments and disagreements over the course of the novel. But, over time, they bond and put aside their differences because they both want and need the same thing.Four Respectable Ladies is charming and witty, filled with all sorts of characters. However, the novel fell flat for me. I think there were too many characters, contributing to an overly complicated and convoluted plot. At times, it was hard to follow the storyline, and we didn’t spend enough time with each of the four women to really warm to them. At certain points in the novel, the women started to blur together. Additionally, Martin Duffy was quite an underwhelming character, not really dominating the book like I thought he would. Instead, I felt like he didn’t make enough of an impact in the town and he was quite disappointing. I was initially drawn to this book because of its gorgeous cover. It captures the flirty, fun nature of some of the characters, whilst also making it clear that it’s historical fiction. The setting has been captured well, highlighting that period in history where the war is over and yet life is not perfect. People are still recovering from the war, and they’re learning how to move on with their lives.“Maggie smiled quietly to herself. Martin Duffy wasn’t a man who expected modesty, she was pretty sure of that. He was a man who liked a bit of spirit and she intended to show him that she had plenty.”The biggest strength of this book was actually the secondary characters, not the four women. I particularly liked Florence Mayberry — the Mayor’s wife — who provides quite a bit of humour for the reader and whose relationship with her husband is entertaining to read.Additionally, Barbara Toner has done a fantastic job of capturing dialogue. This book is really dialogue heavy, but Barbara has illustrates all of the individual voices really well and so the conversations don’t get muddled. It was easy to follow who was speaking, even when there were multiple people in one scene. I recommend this book to readers who love historical fiction, but know that this isn’t a typical historical fiction novel. Romance doesn’t drive the plot, and there are many many characters. It’s really a book about a town of people, not just four women and one part-time husband. This isn’t my favourite book, but I do think there is a market for this. Many readers will love the town of Prospect, and all the drama within it. Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.more
- January 1, 1970VickiIn a plot worthy of Shakespeare or Wilde, this convoluted melodrama of four women in post-WW1 NSW is both comic and tragic. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
- January 1, 1970Theresa Smith WritesJane Austen meets Rosalie Ham in this utterly delightful new novel from Barbara Toner. Even the title, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband, speaks for itself in terms of the story. Yes, these four women do pool their resources to hire a part-time husband to share, and yes, the results are as outrageous as you might expect. Particularly when you consider that at the outset, these four women aren’t even friends. In fact, with the exception of Pearl, they each harbour rather intense long Jane Austen meets Rosalie Ham in this utterly delightful new novel from Barbara Toner. Even the title, Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband, speaks for itself in terms of the story. Yes, these four women do pool their resources to hire a part-time husband to share, and yes, the results are as outrageous as you might expect. Particularly when you consider that at the outset, these four women aren’t even friends. In fact, with the exception of Pearl, they each harbour rather intense long term grudges against each other. It’s wonderful to see their understanding and consideration for each other grow over the course of the story.Barbara Toner’s style is sharply honest and appeals to me greatly. There isn’t a single sentence within this novel that isn’t infused with her unique brand of insightful observation. It’s such a rare talent, and short of gushing on and on about her brilliance, I’m probably incapable of doing this novel justice within this review. You should just read it for yourself. As soon as possible. You’ll love every minute because her words are sprinkled with gold dust.But what’s it really about? Yes, there’s plenty of humour and mayhem throughout, more than one mystery and more than one instance of the ridiculous, but Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband is by no means a fluffy funny story about four women vying for the attention of one man. Far from it. At the heart of this story is the magnification of inequality; an era in society where women were encouraged to be helpless, admired for being helpless, and scorned for showing the slightest bit of initiative beyond the domestic realm. For women who were widows or unmarried – or even married but with a husband who had checked out to some degree – they were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. Women were quite simply not taken seriously – unless of course there was a war on and no men available, but after the war, it was back to expected helplessness. So, what was a woman in this predicament to do? No husband, no father, no brother; well, you hired a part-time husband to handle all of the things you were barred from handling on account of your sex. The fact that he turned out to be a little bit useless was beside the point because as this very telling statement points out:‘His purpose, as things panned out, had been not to do what the ladies couldn’t, but to show the ladies what they might achieve on their own.’The characterisation within this novel is superb. There are all sorts, warts and all, within Prospect. And while our four ladies shine the brightest, there are plenty of others that steal the spotlight from time to time. Another winning aspect of this story is the way in which Barbara Toner brought a small post war Australian town to life with such realistic vigour. I was utterly convinced of the authenticity of Prospect. Far from stereotypical, this town and its inhabitants rang true to me for the era. Like I mentioned in the beginning, think Jane Austen – particularly Lady Susan and Pride and Prejudice – meeting Rosalie Ham, and you’ll begin to form an impression about what to expect with this novel. But please don’t be mislead, this comparison really is only for impressionistic purposes as Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband stands on its own two feet steady and sure. I feel quite certain this one is destined for that elusive ‘it’s going to be a classic’ elevation.Respectable LadiesI’d like to thank Penguin Random House Australia for providing me with a copy of Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband. I enjoyed it immensely and won’t be able to stop recommending it for a very long time – if ever!more
- January 1, 1970Sam Still ReadingFour Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband is a book that honestly, didn’t work for me. On paper, it ticks many of the boxes I enjoy in fiction: central female characters, Australian, historical setting and a bit of a laugh. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite get into this book enough to enjoy it. Looking at other reviews, I’m easily in the minority. The premise of the book is interesting and unique. It’s set after World War I and Spanish influenza have decimated Australia’s men (and women). Fo Four Respectable Ladies Seek Part-time Husband is a book that honestly, didn’t work for me. On paper, it ticks many of the boxes I enjoy in fiction: central female characters, Australian, historical setting and a bit of a laugh. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite get into this book enough to enjoy it. Looking at other reviews, I’m easily in the minority. The premise of the book is interesting and unique. It’s set after World War I and Spanish influenza have decimated Australia’s men (and women). For four women in the small country town of Prospect, things are dire in different ways but the one thing they have in common is being restricted by their gender. Nobody is willing to believe them or take them seriously – and when I say nobody, that’s the men of Prospect. Pearl is looking for her fiancé who is missing, but the local priest refuses to tell her anything. Adelaide’s husband has PTSD from the war. She knows that the manager of the family business is stealing from them, but nobody will take her seriously. Louisa is in deep debt from her dead husband’s schemes, but the bank manager won’t help. Maggie is trying to raise her two brothers and fight for their land, but she’s dismissed as silly. Initially, these women aren’t really friends – sure, they know each other as they live in the small town – but they have a lot in common. Add the idea of one part-time husband to share and it brings them together…I found the story to be a mix of drama with occasional touches of the tragi-comic, which didn’t always work for me. Sometimes I laughed and sometimes I felt guilty for doing so. Occasionally the women came through as a bit silly, perhaps reflecting the way they were seen through the eyes of men – dramatic, over the top but ultimately unimportant. I didn’t really feel comfortable with that. I also found each of the main characters hard to separately, particularly early on the book. Their backstories/reasons for needing help were clear, but on the page I couldn’t separate who was talking or who we were meant to follow. Louisa and Adelaide blended into one quite a lot. While linking the characters by them thinking/doing something similar is quite clever (and I imagine requires a lot of skill to do), I just got lost. Maybe this was because I mainly read at night after work, but I found myself rereading (and rereading) the paragraph before, wondering why Louisa has now morphed into Maggie. The part-time husband Martin also was a bit of a trip – I couldn’t warm to him.I think I would have done better with this book if I’d been able to read it in large chunks and taken a lighter, more humorous approach to the book. Thank you to Penguin Australia for the copy of this book.http://samstillreading.wordpress.commore
- January 1, 1970Bree TI loved the idea of this book. Post-WWI Australia is not a setting I encounter a lot and I was very intrigued with it. It was a very strange time – whilst men were away at war women had to take on roles they would previously not have done. There were men who had not gone to war (Australia did not have conscription for WWI and therefore all that signed up were volunteers) found their jobs given to returning soldiers or that those soldiers had returned to reclaim the jobs they’d had before they le I loved the idea of this book. Post-WWI Australia is not a setting I encounter a lot and I was very intrigued with it. It was a very strange time – whilst men were away at war women had to take on roles they would previously not have done. There were men who had not gone to war (Australia did not have conscription for WWI and therefore all that signed up were volunteers) found their jobs given to returning soldiers or that those soldiers had returned to reclaim the jobs they’d had before they left. There had been the Spanish flu epidemic on the tail end of WWI and many areas had been drastically affected by both. Whereas flu generally killed the elderly or the very young, this one killed those in the prime of their lives.All four of the women are struggling, in different ways. Louisa is now a widow and is also being targeted about her husband’s debts. Although Adelaide’s husband returned, he’s struggling and isn’t interested in her claims that the family general store is being ripped off by the manager. Maggie is very young, left to raise her hellion little brothers and Pearl is new in town. She’s taken a job as a housekeeper but her real reasons for being in Prospect, NSW are to try and find her wayward fiancé, who returned from the war and disappeared.As women in 1919, they are restricted by social expectations and also aren’t particularly taken seriously. Adelaide can’t get anyone to listen to her about the general store manager, the men that Pearl must talk to in seeking her fiancé won’t give her any answers. Louisa has her own problems and Maggie needs a firm hand to help her pull the boys into line. And perhaps get back the land that is rightfully belonging to her family. The idea of hiring a man to ‘share’ between them is a great one, albeit scandalous, should anyone ever find out the man’s true reason for being in town. A man will be able to do the things that they as ladies cannot do, conduct conversations that they cannot indulge in. Unfortunately, the choice is entrusted to someone else and they send them…..Martin Duffy.From first glance it’s appallingly obvious that Martin Duffy is not the man that any of the ladies need. He doesn’t have the confident and assured manner to deal with many different types of people but that doesn’t matter to several of them, who rather fancy that Martin Duffy could become less of a figurative husband and more of an actual husband. Although Martin does do his best to investigate the various problems the four ladies are happen, he’s rather inadequate for the task. I think some of the story does fall a bit flat because it relies a lot on the premise that these four women have faith in him to help them out. Their attitudes towards him are quite interesting – and there’s a lot of bickering over who has the greater problem and needs him to sort it out for them first. The women are not what you’d call friends – they’re from different walks of life, different social classes, they have various feuds and foibles between them and at times their relationships really do reflect this is a forced situation. Four women who need a man to sort something for them in a world where they cannot reliably do it for themselves. Of them all, Pearl is the most capable. She really only needs a man to accompany her to the railway construction sites in order to try and get some information from the men working there to find if her fiancé has been through this area. She is able to keep Adelaide’s house, mind her child and be the voice of reason at almost every turn. Maggie is young and panicked, saddled with a stressful situation and judged by quite a few of the locals. Adelaide came across as high strung but she had the right idea and I did find the journey for her and her husband very interesting – I wish a bit more could have been spent on it. Louisa was the character I had the most trouble connecting with and there were a lot of…..unresolved issues with her story although with a sequel in the works, that should hopefully help. My favourite part of the story was Pearl and her love interest.**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for the purposes of an honest reviewmore
- January 1, 1970Ashleighreview to appear on my blog in three weeks time.
- January 1, 1970JanineThis promised a lot but didn't quite reach the level I was hoping for. Lots of characters to keep track of and a few confusing situations.
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