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Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars

by Miranda Emmerson

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While it took me a little while to get into this story, by halfway through the book I couldn't put the book down. It wasn't what I expected, but that's okay because Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars is more literary and substantial than I thought it would be. It sounds like a mystery, and along the way a lot is revealed, but it’s more about the people in the story rather than a crime that needs solving. Characters are one of its strengths and they include Anna with her secrets, an Irish police officer trying to appear British and his unhappy wife, the Turkish family who run the restaurant Anna lives above, and a black Jamaican accountant who wants to fit in. It’s set in 1965 so there are references to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Carnaby Street, but it’s not a lighthearted swinging sixties story. Instead it explores themes like racism, classism, immigration, and repression. The writing is atmospheric and full of mood-setting description that's lush and gritty, heartwarming and heartbreaking.

I read an advanced review copy of this book supplied to me at no cost and with no obligation by the publisher. Review opinions are mine. ( )
1 vote Jaylia3 | Apr 14, 2017 |
Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars is as English a book as you can find. From the darling title to the story of ordinary people going to extraordinary lengths out of a sense of duty to each other and to their ideals, it is a very English book, rich in English culture and values. Yet, every character in the book is an immigrant, even the unstoppable Miss Treadway. This may be Miranda Emmerson’s first novel, but she writes with the confidence and sure-footedness of long experience.

Anna Treadway is a dresser for the fabulous American actress, Iolanthe Green, who mysteriously disappeared one night, walking back to her hotel from the theater. Anna, who moved to London from Wales, is determined to find her, believing the police are simply not doing enough. She lives above a cafe run by Ottmar, an immigrant from Turkey. She had worked at the cafe when she first came to London and Ottmar has a soft spot in his heart for her. On the part of the police, Barnaby Hayes, an immigrant from Ireland, is working harder than Anna supposes, his devotion to his work supplanting his devotion to his wife and daughter. In her investigations, Anna meets Aloysius, an immigrant from Jamaica, whose aspirations are as country-home British as they come.

I loved Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars but probably not for obvious reasons. The mystery is more a game of tag and there is an extraordinary number of people being in the same place at the same time and despite Miss Treadway and Inspector Hayes worries about “why women disappear” there is not much suspense or tension in the mystery. But then, I am not convinced that the mystery is the point of this novel at all.

Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars is about identity and belonging. It is about how people reinvent themselves. It’s no spoiler to inform you that nearly every character has two names. There’s Barnaby (Brennan), Iolanthe (Yolanda), and Aloysius (Louis) and even Miss Treadway has a surprise or two, or three. This is a story of immigrants assimilating. When the Jamaica-born Aloysius is brutalized by racist police, it does not matter than he is a “suit-wearing, tea-drinking, Financial Times and Evelyn Waugh reading man of London town.” He is black and though “the man in his head had become far whiter” that is not the man the police see.

Anna Treadway finds her own identity in question, her faith in institutions crumbling in the face of injustice. Emmerson described it as feeling as though “somehow the institutions belonged to her. She had a sense of ownership” of the social, political, legal institutions of the country. She also wrote about Anna wondering how Aloysius perceived her skin color, was it as evident to him as his was to her or did her pale complexion signify “the blankness of a slate?” The phrase “white privilege” raises so many hackles, but perhaps Emmerson’s descriptions, the sense of ownership of the kingdom’s institutions, the blankness of the slate–a slate clear of negative stereotypes in the minds of police, for example. It was heartening to see new metaphors for privilege that perhaps are more effective because they don’t trigger defensiveness so quickly.

The characters in Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars are interesting, complex, and everything that matters to the story. There’s a bit of unlikely coincidence, but it is such perfect coincidence, that I embrace it all.

Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars will be released February 27, 2017. I received an advance e-galley from the publisher through Edelweiss.
★★★★★
http://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/9780062476722/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Jan 31, 2017 |
This book turned out to be not what I was expecting at all. I think I had in mind a jolly 60s caper (partly because of the lovely cover) and what I actually got was a serious story about racism and family problems amongst other things.

There's a lot going on in this story and quite a few different strands. The disappearance of Iolanthe Green, the missing actress, is what the story revolves around and yet in a way the focus was on everybody but her. We meet policeman Barnaby Hayes and he features a fair amount in the story, but I was left wondering what the point of him being such a main character was, and the conclusion to his story was sadly lacking.

The ending was extremely abrupt and I kept pressing the button on my Kindle thinking that there must be more. I couldn't even remember who the final character mentioned was and had to go back and search through the book. Even then, I'm not sure what the relevance of mentioning them was.

I liked many aspects of this book. I liked Anna Treadway and I particularly liked her gentle and kind friend, Aloysius. Theirs were the sections of the story that stood out for me. Whilst there isn't a major 60s feel to it, I did enjoy reading about the places that they visited whilst searching for Iolanthe. I thought the prejudices of the period were portrayed quite well and there were some sections that were very uncomfortable and shocking to read.

This is a hard book for me to review. I did feel that all the strands didn't quite come together. The author is a lovely writer but maybe the level of detail and the number of characters was too much for me. I do think the book will be a success though and Miranda Emmerson has a fine way with words. ( )
1 vote nicx27 | Jan 8, 2017 |
In 1960s London, Iolanthe walks out of the theatre where she is starring and disappears. Anna Treadway wants to find the woman she was working for as a dresser. Noone is quite who they seem to be on this compelling story, but I cared about all the characters. I liked how the author writes about assumptions, migration and discrimination (without losing sight of the story). This is not a whitewashed picture of Swinging London in the 1960s (though the fab four do get a nod).
" By Stockwell...Anna and Aloysius fell again to comparing books they’d read and books they’d loved. Brave New World: Aloysius but not Anna. 1984: them both, though Anna honestly hadn’t ever loved Orwell. Brighton Rock: Aloysius hadn’t read any Graham Greene but yes, of course he meant to. Evelyn Waugh: Anna liked A Handful of Dust because it was human, Aloysius preferred Decline and Fall because the comedy was better. Then Anna pretended to have read Bleak House and Aloysius pretended to have finished Dombey and Son. Then they agreed that Shirley was a better novel than most people thought but only in the first half. They couldn’t agree on Austen and Aloysius found himself slightly embarrassed at being the one to champion her so they dropped it and both pretended to have read Tom Jones instead." ( )
2 vote charl08 | Nov 15, 2016 |
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