Easy on the heart: The Marriage Bureau

Alright, today we’re moving away from the doom and gloom, the moaning and whining.

I still feel restless etc but I’m making the effort not to bring you all down (although, thanks to all of you who left comments on my last post letting me know I’m not the only one!).

Last year, I promised you a review of the book I’m talking about today.

marriage-burreauThat’s right, today I’m finally talking about The Marriage Bureau: True Stories of 1940s London Matchmakers!

(May be known as Marriages Are Made in Bond Street: True Stories from a 1940s Marriage Bureau in your market)

In the mid-1980s, author Penrose Halson took over a London marriage bureau that had been operating since 1939. It was started by friends Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver, single women who weren’t ready to get married themselves but knew a lot of people that could use their services as matchmakers. The idea came to Mary when she became aware of all the young, marriage minded males posted overseas who would come home for a few weeks to find a girl to marry. They didn’t have the connections to meet the right women and Mary did.

The Marriage Bureau follows these young women (in their mid-twenties when they started) as they worked to find office space, and set up their business at a time when women rarely worked outside of the home. It introduces readers to an incredible cast of characters: London spinsters, men who wanted to marry above their station, a widow three times over looking for a man without children who wouldn’t upset the balance of her life, the young sailor looking for love while on leave who hoped they would find someone that was just like his neighbour growing up, even a German spy.


I’ll admit that one of the things that drew me to this book was the fact that it’s in production by the folks that are responsible for Downton Abbey. I’m imagining a kind of Call the Midwife crossed with Downton or Upstairs Downstairs. I still get so excited thinking about the possibility!

This is a delightful, easy on the heart non-fiction read. Honestly, most of the time I forgot I was reading non-fiction. The chapters are set up in a way that you could dip in and out and you wouldn’t lose the ‘plot’. I have a friend who I regularly supply with books – she always tells me she doesn’t read non-fiction. I’m planning on loaning it to her, pretending that it’s fiction. Not sure she will notice the difference – that’s how readable it is.

I’ve been reading a lot of heavy, heart-rending non-fiction. The Marriage Bureau is that rare non-fiction read that is uplifting, riveting and will leave a smile on your face.

Look for it in spring.


6 thoughts on “Easy on the heart: The Marriage Bureau

  1. Ooooo, that sounds like it would make a positivley delightful show. And perhaps a useful antidote to all the BBC crime dramas which I’m obsessing about these days. Heheh Glad you’ve found something to settle with, even temporarily! And more non-fiction too: look at you go!

  2. The way you describe it makes it sound like this book has something akin to arranged marriages. It’s strange to me to think that soldiers want a girl waiting for them at home, even if they’ve never met that girl before.

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