Greener Horizons, is Edna Hunneysett’s third book of semi-autobiography; an intriguing tale, revealing the twists and turns of a young woman’s life (Emma), spanning the years from 1957 to 1964. After leaving the confines of a Convent grammar boarding school, Emma goes through radical changes in her life as she leaves her isolated farmhouse home to gain employment and eventually marry and have children. The author writes in the present tense, conveying immediacy and movement, almost as if we’re reading a diary.

Moving to an industrial town, Emma works for the Inland Revenue and develops new affiliations; with adherence to the Catholic faith underpinning her journey through early adult life. Within months, she becomes involved with a questionable young man but is thwarted by her father who steps in, over-riding her plans because ‘it is for the best,’ leaving her devasted. In another town, she explores the dance halls and eventually meets her Mr Right, but how do the families feel?

If your living memory goes back to the period of this book you may recognise the world that Emma inhabits; the younger you are, the more it will seem like ancient history. It was a time when the impact of World War Two still lingered: rationing of goods and conscription to National service were very recent and expectations of women were returning from war-related jobs to domesticity. Motorways and bypasses were in their infancy and there were two channels of black-and-white television; as for food, Emma’s staple meal seemed to be mince and mash. Whilst this may seem, with hindsight, an austere lifestyle, it’s evident in Greener Horizons that strong family and friendship bonds provided sustenance and happiness. Photographs of named people appear in the book, adding interest and intrigue.

An exert: …With Christmas Day falling on a Thursday, Emma and Ron have a four-day break at the farmhouse but Emma is concerned about how he will fit in. With a family their size, Christmas is noisy and there can be arguments. She will be going to midnight Mass. She tries to fore-warn Ron, but he is not worried. ‘I’ll come Christmas Eve, but it will be late, as I’m at work all day.’ ‘Another thing, I must tell you,’ Emma says, ‘is that we only have a bucket outside in our lav that dad has to empty. We pee at the back of the buildings and only use the lav for the other. Otherwise, the bucket fills up far too quickly.’ Ron reassures Emma that he will be there on Christmas Eve.
‘Hasn’t he arrived yet?’ Tom asks, after coming in from milking, on Christmas Eve. ‘Will he want picking up at the bus stop?’ ‘I don’t know what time he is coming, Dad.’ The evening draws on. Emma keeps glancing anxiously at the clock and is beginning to wonder if he has changed his mind. The family has long since had their customary Christmas Eve giblet pie. Miriam and Jacob are in bed sleeping before they all journey out to midnight Mass. ‘You will have to sleep with Amy and Miriam,’ Mary tells Emma. ‘Mark will move in with Tim in the double bed and Ron can have Mark’s single bed.’ It is late when Ron finally appears. ‘There wasn’t a direct bus over the moor road,’ he explains. ‘I took a coast road bus to Whitby and caught the last one out. It’s eerie walking down that lane in the dark. You can almost imagine footsteps behind you, but when I paused, I heard nothing.’ Everyone relaxes. Ten minutes before the family leave for church, Mary asks Ron a question. ‘Are you coming with us?’ Ron shakes his head. ‘I’m not a Catholic.’ He pauses and there is a silence. ‘I’ll just stay here.’ Ron has never been inside a Catholic church. He is quite wary about such things… ‘I’ll go and get the little two up,’ states Mary, changing the subject. ‘We need to be leaving.’…

A semi-autobiographical story frees the writer from responsibility for close historical accuracy. It sits in the fiction>non-fiction spectrum, a phenomenon which can be the source of much, sometimes sterile, debate. For example, J B Priestley’s Bright Day is cast as a novel, yet it shares some of the key features of Greener Horizons, Priestley’s ‘Bruddersford’ (Bradford) equating to Hunneysett’s ‘Middlesburn’ (Middlesbrough). The Beatles enter the narrative in Greener Horizons several years prematurely. There is at least one precedent for such a disparity, that of the novelist Ian McEwan being reminded of the chronology of The Rolling Stones’ output following the publication of On Chesil Beach (2007). Although such a disparity might disorientate the sharp-eyed reader, it matters more that one gains a picture of the times that form the background to the story. What comes across to this reader is a society that – although stratified as it is today – wasn’t stained by the fragmentation we see these days, seemingly fuelled by increasing misuse of so-called social media. Sixty years ago, long-distance communication was usually via letters and calls from public phone boxes, white goods in kitchens were rare and retail parks with their convenience food outlets were still on their way across the Atlantic. If you’re seeking a read that documents and represents that period a couple of generations ago, Greener Horizons may be just what you’re looking for.

The author adds that she sent an advance copy to a school friend who is a widow and lives alone. The friend’s comment was that the book had come at just the right time and she felt she had a companion with her through Christmas, a reminder of a line in the film Shadowlands (1993), about the writer, C S Lewis: ‘We read to know that we are not alone’. Go down memory lane and enjoy this fascinating life story of a young woman in the early 1960s.

Available from Chipmunkapublishing, bookshops (£10) or from the author 01642 813277

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