Publishing year: 2013
The novel starts with Peter Sefton finding an old marriage certificate at a flea market.
He thinks that this document must have been very important to the people involved, and it is a shame that it should be displayed in this way, so he decides to buy it and intends to find out more about the people who got married in Leyton, Essex on 15 January 1900.
The book alternates between different times and perspectives. In 1900 we get to know Rose Ince, who works in a drapery shop in Leyton. She was born out of wedlock to Edith, a seamstress who died young. Rose’s first employment was in a drapery shop in Oxford Street. Rose is ambitious and dreams of having her own emporium, a plan that makes her appear eccentric and insensible to her peers. A woman’s main aspiration back then was marriage and motherhood, but Rose was not interested in either of them. She wanted to be a businesswoman. So thinking that in a big store like the one in Oxford Street she would never amount to much, she decides to spread her wings and answers an advertisement for a shop in Leyton. She is employed by Mr Thomas Crockford and becomes the head of department. I wonder if Rose is the bride in the marriage certificate, and if so, who is her groom? As far as we know, Rose had no beau or boyfriend and wasn’t interested in marriage. So if she got to marry, did she do it out of love? Or was there some other reason?
Apart from this, the novel also narrates some facts that took place in 1996. A milkman reports that one of his clients haven’t been seen for a long time, and there was a strange stink coming from the door as well as flies. The police goes to the address and finds Mr Harry Williams dead in his armchair, apparently he died of a heart attack and has been dead for a few weeks. That house remains empty as Mr Williams had no relatives. Eric Huntley, the Council Empty House officer, gets interested in the case a few years later, and wants to find out if Mr Williams truly didn’t have any living descendants. I wonder who this Mr Williams is. Is he related to Rose in some way?
Interesting start. I love the part about Rose; I like her determination and character. She is not the typical woman of the period. I’m curious to know more about her and her life.