Author(s): Jean Lucey Pratt
'Timeless, funny and utterly absorbing' HILARY MANTEL In April 1925 at the age of fifteen, Jean Lucey Pratt started a journal that she kept until just a few days before her death in 1986, producing over a million words in 45 exercise books. What emerges is a portrait of a truly unique, spirited woman and writer. Never before has an account so fully, so honestly and so vividly captured a single woman's journey through the twentieth century.
Delightful ... an extraordinary woman with a dry, wicked sense of humour and such a longing for love and recognition. I inhaled the 700 pages and still wanted more * Red * The most moving and important book I read this year by a mile: funny, tender and gripping -- RACHEL COOKE * New Statesman * It's not only that Jean is a good writer: observant, funny and rather lyrical. Nor is it that she is so honest ... Rather, it's that her journals, unfettered and intimate, offer up a whole life * Observer * The sort of reading that will have you grip the arm of your chair in joy -- ALEXANDRA HEMINSLEY * The Debrief * Spend Christmas with Jean Lucey Pratt, the siren of Slough: you will not regret or forget it ... wholly absorbing and deeply entertaining -- HILARY MANTEL * New Statesman * One of my favourite books of the year ... the little details are fascinating and the overall portrait of one woman's life in the twentieth century is a must read. I can't recommend this highly enough -- CATHY RENTZENBRINK * Stylist * What a find! Jean's voice sings across the decades, fresh, vivid and desperate for love - a woman with so much to offer, who kicks against the stuffy society in which she finds herself. I grew to love her sharp observation, her vulnerability and her passion -- DEBORAH MOGGACH A Notable Woman shows us, in close up, how extraordinary the business of an 'ordinary' life can be - how much complexity and feeling and humour it can contain * Guardian * Miss Pratt hoped for an audience, which she will now find, even in the most intimate act of documenting her private life. Her entries read novelistically at times. There is beauty and humour and a fantastic, page-turning narrative, even as a teenager, when, Adrian Mole-like, she writes about her girl-crushes and first kiss. Too often we dismiss the value of ordinary life. Miss Pratt reminds us that it makes for its own kind of literature * Independent * Immensely poignant ... On the face of it, Pratt's life appears unexceptional. Yet her diaries are utterly enthralling: intimate, occasionally barbed, frequently funny and filled with her hopes and dreams, friendships and love affairs, as well as her observations on Britain's rapidly changing society in the 20th century. It is a life laid bare in all its passion and anger, love and longing, sadness and acceptance. Pratt herself wrote: "Ordinary living isn't humdrum...there is so much pleasure to be had from apparently trivial things." It's a sentiment that could encapsulate this entire extraordinary project * The Sunday Times * Deliciously frank and funny * Daily Mail * What makes these diaries such pleasurable reading is one's sense of the diarist herself: her vibrancy and humour, her idea of life as a battle to overcome and, most of all, her endless supply of hope and her refusal to be beaten * Literary Review * You root for Jean, so wanting her to find love, and you feel her heartbreaks and embarrassments acutely. Her diaries are a record of the quiet stoicism and loneliness of the women who were left behind by the war. She may never have met her man, her overpowering, tall, divine dancer, but what a victory to see her diaries in print * Mail on Sunday * There is no doubting the cumulative interest of this troubled record of a lonely life ... In her private diary, Pratt swung between regret and resolution in her search for poise * Daily Telegraph * Jean's honesty and unpretentiousness is very striking, and at times very moving too. I'm so pleased to see that an edition of her diaries, in which her full story can emerge, is at last seeing the light of day. She is unquestionably worthy of this, and A Notable Woman will find a valued place on my bookshelf -- VIRGINIA NICHOLSON What makes Jean's journals special is the intimacy and frankness of her account of a life seen from the inside, and the way she draws the reader into a relationship with her. As a record of the individual's dreams set against the cramped reality, Jean's journals are timeless. She leaps out of her own pages, free as she never was in life: you want to protect her, and simultaneously to slap her and cheer her on. It's very funny, occasionally sobering, and shot through with acute insights. Who would have imagined that the life of a Buckinghamshire bookseller would make you want to turn the pages so fast? I wanted to know how she got through the war, but I was even more interested in when she would lose her virginity -- HILARY MANTEL Gossipy, funny and spirited, Jean's diaries are fresh and wonderfully frank * Psychologies * A glorious gut-wrenching read ... A Notable Woman makes my heart sing. Jean's diaries are a life in its entirety, in all its glorious mess * The Pool * [Jean's] writing is so vivid, her confessions so frank and her character so attractive. You root for her again and again, then you shake a fist at the world for letting her down ... unbearably moving * Big Issue * A Bridget Jones of the 1920s ... What Garfield is really good at is distilling meaning from a time that we don't really know about ... extraordinary * Monocle Arts Review *
Jean Lucey Pratt was born in 1909 in Wembley, Middlesex and lived much of her life in a small cottage on the edge of Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire. She was a trainee architect, she was a publicist, she gardened, she took in lodgers, she read copiously, she wrote criticism, and in later years she ran a bookshop. But above all, she kept track of her life in the most lyrical of ways, from the age of 15 until just a few days before her death in 1986. Simon Garfield is the author of sixteen acclaimed books of non-fiction including To the Letter, On the Map, Just My Type and Mauve. His study of AIDS in Britain, The End of Innocence, won the Somerset Maugham prize. www.simongarfield.com