The Staircase Girls by Catherine Seymour
The secret lives, heartaches and joy of the Cambridge 'bedders'

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She gives enough colour to their lives to make us see how tough their circumstances were and appreciate how grateful Pilcher and her colleagues were for their jobs. However, Seymour’s method prevents her from analysing the relationship between the bedders and their charges that is surely at the heart of this story.
-Guardian

Synopsis

Joyce leaned her black Triumph bicycle against a wall, and shivered in the foggy, early dawn light. Glancing up at the enormous wooden, carved gate, she hesitated. This was a secret world she was about to enter...

For 16 year old Joyce, who lived in one of the poorest streets in Cambridge, the college building where she was about to enter represented privilege, wealth, a life she'd never live. As a bedder, Joyce would be working up and down one of the stone staircases, making the beds of the male students, sweeping floors, dusting desks. She never expected to also find herself mothering, chastising and sometimes even covering up for 'her boys'.

The Staircase Girls takes us into the lives of Joyce and other bedders, like Nance, Maud, Rose and Audrey. They endured the Second World War and then had to contend with poverty, ill health and bereavement. They loved, lost and loved again. But their friendships gave them strength, and their work gave them happiness - and even a lasting connection with their charges, some of whom would go on to run the country. Revealing their untold stories for the first time, this is a vivid, poignant account of these remarkable women's lives.

 

About Catherine Seymour

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Published July 28, 2016 by Pan. 320 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, War, Education & Reference.
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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Lara Feigel on Jul 14 2016

She gives enough colour to their lives to make us see how tough their circumstances were and appreciate how grateful Pilcher and her colleagues were for their jobs. However, Seymour’s method prevents her from analysing the relationship between the bedders and their charges that is surely at the heart of this story.

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