Publisher: Sandstone Press
Publication Date: 27th June 2019
I was initially drawn to this book by that beautiful cover. I’m a vintage clothing fan and that cover screamed vintage class to me. When I read the synopsis I got distinct Five Days Of Fog by Anna Freeman vibes. I adored that book for transporting me so wonderfully to 1960’s London and a group of shoplifting women.
What we have in Finer Things by David Wharton is a tale of two strong women hailing from completely different backgrounds who come together to form a bond based on their individual artistic skills, even if one of them is on the wrong side of the law.
We are transported back to London 1963, where we meet Delia. Delia is a ‘hoister’ which is essentially a shoplifter. She is part of a female hoisting group run by a hard faced, no nonsense woman. Delia is in her late 30’s (I think!) and seems to be an old hand at this shoplifting lark. Confidently donning her huge bloomers and striding into the large department stores, lifting a dress here and a fur coat there. So established is she and so skilled that she gets to train the new hoisters coming up through the ranks.
When one of her training exercises goes awry, Delia feels responsible for the chain of events that follow and wonders about her future as a hoister.
Running parallel to this we have Tess, a young girl coming to the big smoke for the first time. Making the journey from Leeds to attend an art college and make her way in the exciting art world in the bustling capital. She meets Jimmy, a young gay man on her course and immediately strikes up a friendship.
Delia and Tess’s paths cross one night in an exclusive members club where the bohemian art types meet. Tess is there to immerse herself fully into this world that she loves and Delia is there on an undercover mission. The two women bond and Tess asks Delia if she would mind letting her paint her portrait. What follows on is a tentative friendship between these two females who are poles apart in age and social stature but still seem to bond together, teaching each other about their respective worlds.
One of the things I enjoyed hugely about this book was the fact that it wasn’t just centered on how Tess and Delia meet and their relationship from thereon in. The author gives us a lovely rich and vivid narrative for each of the women seperately, their insecurities, their struggles and their flaws.
There are a wealth of characters on the periphery who are not diminished in any way. In fact each of the characters in this story are vivid and vibrant (Itchy Pete!) and you can really see these people in your minds eye as you read.
The whole 1960’s London backdrop is one which I do enjoy reading. I love historical fiction as you already know but ‘modern’ historical fiction, for want of a better phrase is also of great interest to me. David Wharton takes us on a journey through London in the swinging sixties, buzzing with life and vibrancy, lives full of expectation, hopes, dreams and aspirations. The worlds of Delia and Tess are colourful and hopeful and we are taken very willingly along with them.
The whole idea of the real life all female shoplifting gang The Forty Elephants who were around in the Sixties really fascinates me and I remember looking into them after reading Five Days Of Fog by Anna Freeman (my review of which is here). I really enjoy reading about strong female protagonists and Tess and Delia are no exception.
David Wharton is very skilled at depicting a world that transports you straight back in time. I felt like I was living this bohemian life along with these amazing women and I feel privileged to have known them.
I would recommend that you get yourself a copy and immerse yourselves in a London from another time with some amazing characters.
Thank you as always to the publisher for my review copy.
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx