How do you find a missing actress in 1960s London in which people are struggling with identity and their cultural heritage? That’s the question Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars unpicks and explores.
The plot revolves around the disappearance of popular actress Iolanthe Green and her dresser Anna Treadway’s mission to find her. During her search, Anna uncovers murky truths and tensions at play in 1960s London which force her and others to face uncomfortable truths about identity, race and women’s choices (or lack thereof).
This is Miranda Emmerson‘s debut novel and I found it an enjoyable read. The characters were relatable with flaws and secrets they have worked hard to forget and hide.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the novel was its delve into identity and the stories we can construct for ourselves and others. Anna, Iolanthe and Hayes are just some of the characters who aren’t what they seem, spending years creating new identities and names for themselves and distancing themselves from their past and their heritage.
Historically, the novel’s 1960s setting is an exciting one. It’s a world on the brink of a sexual revolution and moves towards racial equality, but still one where cultural barriers including institutional racism are ingrained.
It’s a world in which unmarried women can appear to be sexually liberated, but have to deal with the consequences. These include loveless marriages, putting children up for adoption and life-threatening illegal abortions. It’s one in which Orla finds herself trapped by pregnancy into a loveless marriage to a man who is wed to his work.
It’s a world in which Omar and Ekin, who have emigrated to London, struggle to watch their teenager Samira emerging as a woman in a Westernised world.
Complex, beautifully written and with vivid characters, Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars is a great read. It sees characters dancing the difficult line between emerging revolutions in sexual freedom, growing gender and racial equality, while cultural barriers and ingrained attitudes – which lead to devestating consequences – were still at play.
Blogger note. I was sent a copy of this book in return for an honest review.