I’m delighted to welcome you today to my stop on the blog tour for fascinating memoir The Last Landlady by Laura Thompson. Thank you to Anne Cater and Unbound Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this perfect gem of a book.
About the book:
Award-winning biographer Laura Thompson pays homage to the English pub through the remarkable story of her grandmother, the first woman in England to be given a publican’s licence in her own name.
‘I cannot think of another book in recent times that has evoked the spirit of Patrick Hamilton more than Laura Thompson’s The Last Landlady nor can I think of a higher compliment nor a greater reason to read this wonderful book about her indomitable grandmother, Violet’ Julie Rutterford, BAFTA Award-winning screenwriter
Laura Thompson’s grandmother Violet was one of the great landladies. Born in a London pub, she became the first woman to be given a publican’s licence in her own name and, just as pubs defined her life, she seemed in many ways to embody their essence.
Laura spent part of her childhood in Violet’s Home Counties establishment, mesmerised by her gift for cultivating the mix of cosiness and glamour that defined the pub’s atmosphere, making it a unique reflection of the national character. Her memories of this time are just as intoxicating: beer and ash on the carpets in the morning, the deepening rhythms of mirth at night, the magical brightness of glass behind the bar…
Through them Laura traces the story of the English pub, asking why it has occupied such a treasured position in our culture. But even Violet, as she grew older, recognised that places like hers were a dying breed, and Laura also considers the precarious future they face.
Part memoir, part social history, part elegy, The Last Landlady pays tribute to an extraordinary woman and the world she epitomised.
About the author:
Laura Thompson won the Somerset Maugham award with her first book, The Dogs, and wrote two books about horse racing while living in Newmarket. Her biographical study of Nancy Mitford, Life in a Cold Climate, appeared in 2003 (re-issued 2015) and was followed by a major biography of Agatha Christie. A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan was published in 2014, and 2015’s Take Six Girls: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters was recently sold to television. She lives in Richmond.
The Last Landlady by Laura Thompson is a celebration of the author’s grandmother, who was the first woman to hold a pub license in her own name. It’s a perfect blend of memoir, social history and elegy, with the larger than life Violet brought vividly to life right from the opening pages.
The supreme landlady, Violet was born in a London pub and, just as pubs defined her life, she seemed in many ways to embody their essence. However, there was so much more to Violet than that as Laura so lovingly and beautifully describes in this lyrical memoir. She reminisces about the many hours she spent in her grandmother’s pub after school, bringing that colourful world to life with her description of the people who passed through the doors of the country pub and Violet’s interaction with them all. Violet had her own way of doing things and the young Laura looked up to her in awe, going on to describe landladies as ‘part mother, part nanny, part sorceress, part goddess.’
As well as reminiscing about her childhood, Laura looks at how pubs have evolved over the years, at how ingrained they once were in English culture and how, in modern times, more and more of them are now closing. This is a part of english culture I remember very well from my childhood growing up in the 1970’s. The local pub used to be the hub of the community and I remember very well sitting outside on a sunny day with a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps, while the grownups enjoyed a well earned drink or two. As awful as that sounds in this day and age, it is a memory I look back on with fondness. Everyone in the community knew everyone else and looked out for each other, with the pub on the corner of the street being the centre of everything, sort of how it’s still depicted in TV soap operas today, although that way of life is now far from reality.
Maybe I look back on that time with rose tinted glasses, but it is a memory I treasure and I miss that warm sense of community we so very rarely see today. I miss those kindhearted people who shaped so much of my childhood, many of whom are no longer with us. Laura Thompson’s recollections of her own childhood brought all those memories flooding back to me, her depiction of her grandmother so similar to the larger than life landlady I remember so well from my own past.
The Last Landlady is a beautifully written and fascinating look at the fading culture of the English pub. But even more importantly, it’s a character study of not only the wonderful Violet (who I adored), but also the disappearing figurehead of the landlady herself, who played such a pivotal role in the lives of our parents and grandparents.
A beautiful and loving memoir that’s packaged up in a wonderful homage to the English pub, this is a book I would highly recommend.
The Last Landlady by Laura Thompson is available to buy now: Amazon UK
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