Thursday 20 June 2013

Review & Giveaway: The Second-Last Woman to Die in England by Maggie Joel

It's my birthday today. It's also completely coincidental that today is the publication date for The Second-Last Woman to Die in England by Maggie Joel and that the publishers have allowed me to host an awesome giveaway, details of which will appear after this short review! 

The synopsis of the book is thus:
The War is over, even the rationing is nearly over, and a new queen, young Elizabeth, is due to be crowned next June. Mrs. Harriett Wallis should be happy. Her husband has an important job, the children are settling in with the new nanny, the new fashions are terrifically flattering, and the War is done. Unfortunately, in just a few months, Mrs. Harriett Wallis will become the second-to-last woman in England to be sentenced to death.
(from Goodreads)

I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that the climax of the book is that Harriet Wallis shoots her husband, Cecil on the day of Queen Elizabeth's coronation. It says so on the back of my copy, and it's pretty much the first thing to happen. The rest of the book is sort of written in flashback form, from the point of view of Harriet Wallis, Cecil Wallis, and the new nanny, Jean Corbett. It's part historical fiction, part murder mystery and it's really quite an intriguing read. 

Although it is set in the 1950s, it sort of feels earlier than that purely because of the massive involvement of the nanny in the children's lives - their parents barely look after them at all - and to me, nannies always feel much more Victorian than mid-century. The amount that the War seems to overshadow everything the characters do, despite it having ended eight years previously made it feel like it was the mid 1940s, but then I guess this is probably just me not having an experience of something which affected lives and society that much that it would still be affecting it as much in various ways eight years later. 

I won't say much else about this book except that it was very well thought-out, very well written and the characters were all really quite likeable, despite their various awfulness. 

Courtesy of the lovely publishers, Canvas, you can win one of three copies and the giveaway is open worldwide! Just do what the form says!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends on 26th and I will notify the winners by email after that. 


  1. First of all, happy birthday!! I hope you have a wonderful day with your beloved ones. Secondly, thank you so much for highlighting this book! I think it is a great topic and I remember reading something about it during my cultural history lessons.

  2. Happy birthday! It says so much about your passion for books that you would blog and host a murder mystery giveaway on your own birthday :)


    I do love to read LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry.

  4. Schindler's List!! It's awesome :D

  5. Happy Birthday!

    This sounds interesting.

    Favourite historical novel...hard. Umm Maybe Regeneration by Pat Barker, it's set in a hospital during ww1 where soldiers are sent to overcome shell shock.