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The Marriage Bureau: The True Story of How…

The Marriage Bureau: The True Story of How Two Matchmakers Arranged Love… (2016)

by Penrose Halson

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In 1986, Penrose Halson and her husband, Bill, bought the Katharine Allen Marriage and Advice Bureau. Before she became a matchmaker, Penrose, forty-six, had been a writer, editor, and teacher. The bureau was modeled on a special undertaking: the Marriage Bureau founded by Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War. In 1992, Heather Jenner's daughter asked Penrose to take over her clients. She agreed, and the two operationsÛÓKatherine Allen's and Jenner's--merged.

"The Marriage Bureau," by Penrose Halson, is an entertaining and lively work of non-fiction, in which the author, using a wealth of primary sources, traces the history of a productive partnership between two resourceful and dedicated women. Heather was a six-foot tall beauty with an ebullient personality and shrewd business sense; Mary was imaginative, romantic, and had great instincts. The two consulted a solicitor to help with the legalities, scrambled to find suitable office space and secretarial help, and created a practical filing system to keep track of their clients. Thanks to good publicity and the impending threat of WWII, Jenner and Olver had no shortage of customers. Men stationed in such places as India and Ceylon sailed to England for a short while to find wives; servicemen were eager to marry before going off to fight; women, some of whom needed someone to support them, wanted to be wed while there was still an available supply of decent men. In some cases, a man or woman specified that his or her potential spouse should have: a decent income; social status; a certain level of education; a good job; and be physically attractive.

Halson does a splendid job of recreating the spirit of the times. Heather and Mary's transformation from carefree twenty-four year olds to hard-working entrepreneurs is amazing. Jenner and Oliver tapped into a need and filled it brilliantly. This is one of the funniest books you will read that is set before and during a major world conflict. The ladies encountered all types of people: eccentric, socially inept, demanding, realistic, fanciful, good-looking, homely, wealthy, impoverished, upbeat, depressed, and the list goes on. The pair brought together a host of lonely men and women who later thanked them profusely and paid an "After-Marriage" fee. This colorful account of how Heather and Mary made a success of their agency, and Halson's vivid depictions of the individuals who sought help finding mates, is fascinating. The author's witty and vibrant prose and her knack for seamlessly incorporating both serious and hilarious anecdotes into her narrative, make this a must-read for lovers of history, psychology, and matrimony. ( )
  booklover915 | Oct 9, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a charming book about a matchmaking bureau started in 1939 London by two young women. This book is full of stories of men and women - quirky, individual, with unique needs and desires - looking for spouses. It's fascinating reading about this type of system before computers, when everything was kept on note cards or in one's head. The backdrop of the book, 1939-1949 London, provides a fascinating look at life during the war and directly after. Overall this is fun, interesting, and sad at times. Recommended. ( )
  tara35 | Feb 3, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A delightful book! By turns humorous, serious, and at times heartbreaking with characters that are pompous, humble, and everywhere between Mary Oliver pitched her Uncle George's idea of the a match-making business. Mary was looking for a job that interested her so she could be independent and not marry a tediously respectable individual and wind up presiding over a tea plantation somewhere. Heather Jenner thought she was jesting when Mary told her of her idea. The book follows the Marriage Bureau from its inception through 1949 and the changing demands of its clientele, the changes in staff, and the couples that turned up for the business's tenth anniversary. An interesting and wonderful read! ( )
  lisa.schureman | Dec 17, 2017 |
"They all want to get together but they never meet. Let's introduce them!"

My parents met through the Heather Jenner marriage bureau and are still together! So this account of the first ten years of the first British marriage bureau, was quite an interesting and entertaining read.
When independent farmer's daughter Audrey Parsons (aka Mary Oliver) disappointed her parents by failing to settle down to marriage, she took on board the idea of an uncle in India - that there were many wife-less colonials, many lonely spinsters in England, and they could do with bringing together.
In the company of her friend, Heather Jenner, she started up a bureau in London in 1939. Despite the fears of some that it would foster immorality, it became unbelievably successful; this light-hearted account gives some of the lifestories- romantic, comical and tragic. As World War 2 took hold, the women had to cope with the blitz going on around them, widows, injured servicemen, GI's...
They came to be seen as agony aunts, writing for newspaper problem pages, judging baby shows, appearing on radio shows. And meanwhile their own lives too moved on..
Easy reading, quitye fun- and the appendix, featuring the clients' often eclectic requirements had me laughing out loud.
The author was a later owner of the bureau. ( )
  starbox | Nov 9, 2017 |
Famous forever as the book about Snowy the Dog. ( )
  picardyrose | Aug 1, 2017 |
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For Bill, and in memory of Heather Jenner
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In 1938, farmer's daughter Audrey Parsons was staying with her uncle, a tea planter who managed a remote plantation in the hills of Assam.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062562665, Paperback)

A riveting glimpse of life and love during and after World War II—a heart-warming, touching, and thoroughly absorbing true story of a world gone by.

In the spring of 1939, with the Second World War looming, two determined twenty-four-year-olds, Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver, decided to open a marriage bureau. They found a tiny office on London’s Bond Street and set about the delicate business of matchmaking. Drawing on the bureau’s extensive archives, Penrose Halson—who many years later found herself the proprietor of the bureau—tells their story, and those of their clients.

From shop girls to debutantes; widowers to war veterans, clients came in search of security, social acceptance, or simply love. And thanks to the meticulous organization and astute intuition of the Bureau’s matchmakers, most found what they were looking for.

Penrose Halson draws from newspaper and magazine articles, advertisements, and interviews with the proprietors themselves to bring the romance and heartbreak of matchmaking during wartime to vivid, often hilarious, life in this unforgettable story of a most unusual business.

“A book full of charm and hilarity.”—Country Life

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 03 Apr 2017 20:27:28 -0400)

In the spring of 1939, with the Second World War looming, two determined 24-year-olds, Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver, decided to open a marriage bureau. They found a tiny office on London's Bond Street and set about the delicate business of match-making. Drawing on the bureau's extensive archives, Penrose Halson - who many years later found herself the proprietor of the bureau - tells their story, and those of their clients. We meet a remarkable cross-section of British society in the 1940s: gents with a 'merry twinkle', potential fifth-columnists, nervous spinsters, isolated farmers seeking 'a nice quiet affekshunate girl' and girls looking 'exactly' like Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh, all desperately longing to find 'The One'. And thanks to Heather and Mary, they almost always did just that.… (more)

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