The Magnificent Mrs. Mayhew

By Milly Johnson

The girls here do not become nurses and social workers and shop assistants: they leave as soldiers, tough, adroit, capable, and fully aware that self must be preserved at all costs. Kindness is a weakness and it will be used against you.” Miss Palmer-Price saw Sophie’s eyes blink as if there was a massive surge of brain activity behind them. And she was right, because less than an hour ago Sophie had been sitting in Religious Education hearing evidence to the contrary. “But Jesus . . .”

Your inner strength and resilience will attract rich, powerful men, and I’m sure you’d want one of those, my dear; which girl wouldn’t? Trust me, love is no substitute for a private jet. Choose the most successful man you can find, put him first in your life, and scythe to the quick anyone who stands in your way. But power does corrupt itself, so occasionally that will involve self-sacrifice on your part. Emotion will be of little use to you at these times. Get used to controlling it, not it controlling you; and that discipline starts with leaving kindnesses to the devotees of the Dalai Lama. Thank you for listening.”

Well, I won’t add to the praises I have poured upon all of the previous books I have read by Milly Johnson for fear of being repetitive. I am very happy that this book and the previous book I have read by this stupendous writer, The Perfectly Imperfect Woman, have branched out from Milly’s usual tried and true formula (3 middle-class ordinary women friends in bad relationships, one a hopeless doormat, find their mojos and happy endings). In this one, we have a lovely young girl, Sophie Mayhew nee Caladine, from a cruel and cold family who has been turned into a Stepford wife. She is posh, rich, and famous. She breaks out of her virtual prison as the appendage of a rising politician and hides away in the one place she was happy in for one summer in her girlhood. She is embraced by the small village community, makes some wonderful friends, and finds love with the vicar. There is always some tension and suspense in the background because you know her uncaring family, her psychopath husband and his political machine are looking for her. Will they find her? Will she return to her former role as “Sophy the Trophy”? Or will she find her true self and be strong enough to resist the forces who want to use her and abuse her and find her happy ending?

Well, we know how it will all end. But the value is in the journey, not the destination. As usual, there is plenty of wit and comedy to spare as well as the touching, sad, and scary moments. Milly is a master at making the reader love and care about her protagonists and their fates. And her ebullient voice makes every page a treat. **5 out of 5 stars**

January 18, 2021

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