On Sunday mornings at my grandmother’s house in the 1950s I would read the two women’s magazines she took. A ten-year-old could learn a thing or two from Evelyn Home’s problem page in Woman, but Barbara Cartland’s romantic stories and Godfrey Winn’s sentimental pieces taught me something much more important: how not to write in a style dripping with flowery artifice and goo. So opening this book in 2016 to find it entirely couched in that preposterously dated style was quite a shock. Still, Penrose Halson relates a story worth telling: of how Heather Jenner founded her matchmaking agency in 1939.
The agency’s history is well documented because everything was logged, including first impressions of clients (‘Awful talker’; ‘Extremely nice gent’), the lonely hearts’ requirements (‘Nice hands rather important’; ‘Educated. Good looking. Self-assured … Handy round the house’; ‘Marilyn Monroe with homely ways’) and introductions (‘I suggest Daisy Sharp, a naive