The dedication of the book reads:
“To all Maynard girls, past and present, especially …”
Clare Morrall’s novel “After the Bombing” focuses on an Exeter girls’ school, a thinly disguised version of The Maynard. And so it is a book with an obvious link to St Leonard’s neighbourhood.
The school is bombed in Exeter’s Baedeker raid, and four boarding girls are billeted at the university, as the boarding house is in ruins. The hall warden, a bachelor, is perturbed by the arrival of young women in his men’s hall of residence, but we learn how the atmosphere changes, helped by music. And we are confronted with the formidable head teacher of the girl’s school, determined that school life will go on, despite the damage to her building.
The novel takes us forward, and backwards in time, switching between the war, and the early 1960’s. Twenty years after the bombing, one of those boarding girls is at the school, teaching. The ghost of another of the quartet haunts her, as does the memory of the head teacher, who has just died. Change comes to her, and the whole school, in the form of a new head teacher, with an ambition to advance the school’s reputation. And a shock comes in the shape of the daughter of that same hall warden, now a widower.
This book will bring back memories of Exeter’s twentieth century life. There are numerous references to the city, including a house in Magdalen Road. Many readers will be caught up in the intricate relations between the leading characters, and many will recognise the human emotions that arise as a result. Recommended.
“After the Bombing” by Clare Morrall is a paperback (or ebook) published by Sceptre.
(published in St Leonard's Neighbourhood News, July-August 2015)