Today, Tuesday, the day that Penelope has chosen to leave her husband, is the first really warm day of spring...'
Penelope has always done her best to be a good wife, a good mistress, a good mother - and a good magistrate. Today she is more conscious that usual of the thinness of the thread that distinguishes good from bad, the law-abiding from the criminal. Sitting in court, hearing a short, sad case of indecent exposure and a long, confused theft, she finds herself examining her own sex life (how would all that sound in court?) her own actions and intentions while she observes the defendants in the dock.
This novel is a tour-de-force , an ingeniously constructed novel in which Nina Bawden counterpoints public appearance with private behaviour in her heroine, Penelope. The result is a marvellous picture of a not always admirable but engagingly complex and very human heroine. As always, Bawden offers a compelling story, sharply witty and beautifully observed. But it is also an honest and provocative book tracing the divergent courses of morality and justice, and uncomfortably posing, as Penelope does of herself, the question: who and what is a good woman?
Nina Bawden (1925-2012) was one of Britain's best-loved writers for both adults and children. Several of her children's books - Carrie's War, a Phoenix Award winner;The Peppermint Pig, which won the Guardian Fiction Award; and Keeping Henry - have become contemporary classics. She wrote over forty novels, slightly more than half of which are for adults, and she was shortlisted for the 1987 Man Booker Prize for Circles of Deceit. She received the prestigious S T Dupont Golden Pen Award for a lifetime's contribution to literature in 2004, and in 2010 The Birds on the Trees was shortlisted for the Lost Booker of 1970.