Yesterday's Houses, by Mavis Cheek

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The Independent Culture

In her twelfth novel Mavis Cheek comes clean about the talismanic power of property. Yesterday's Houses is less about finding Mr Right than one woman's quest for a room of her own (and a constant supply of hot water). Shop assistant, Marianne, is just 17 when she finds herself at a party in leafy Kingston-upon-Thames. Impressed by the elegant house and its luxurious bathroom, she is further seduced by Charles, a "shaggy-haired" student with a Zapata moustache. It's the late Sixties and it's not long before the ill-matched twosome find themselves in Chelsea registry office.Cheek sets the story of their marriage against a backdrop of changing London addresses - from dingy basement to suburban terrace. Hoping for babies and central heating (still something of a novelty), Marianne is disappointed to find herself locked in a relationship with a self-regarding bore who likes to thwack her with a hairbrush. Divorce follows, and after a series of new men and moves, she sets up on her own, reinventing herself as a successful novelist. Cheek's bricks-and-mortar narrative captures the marital hiccups of the post-Beatles generation with characteristic wit and aplomb. This is a writer well versed in the mistakes smart women make in the pursuit of love.

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