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There are no exceptions and therefore there are no choices. This book is about the choices people make: the limitations we set for ourselves and the solutions we never stand by because we feel there aren’t any. Are the rules and boundaries we set for ourselves much stronger than the rules that other people set for us? Why is our individual situation different from everybody elses? We are each unique as we are the only person in the world who has had that particular upbringing, education and life experience. This is the personal story of four generations of English women between 1885 and 1985: their lives, their loves, their heartbreak and their joy. This is the story of why they made the choices they did. It is also the story of us all, throughout the generations to the background clamour of the outside world.

My grandmother and great grandmother both died just before my wedding. Consequently they were real flesh and blood figures in my life. Hannah born in 1885, ethereal with beautiful green eyes she stood 4’10” tall. She ran away and left her child Hester with her Victorian parents-in-law when her husband went to America to make his fortune. Hester was born in 1905 and was Hannah’s oldest daughter; the mother of eleven children and powerful, outspoken and determined, the only characteristics she shared with her mother were her height and her green eyes. The day of her 16-year old son’s funeral she walked home in the snow to find that a neighbour had dropped her 1-year son. He had been taken to hospital with a fractured skull. She turned around and ran all to way back to the hospital. Mona born in 1925 was Hester’s oldest daughter: tall, blonde and slender she had nothing in common with her mother except her green eyes. Private, ferociously clever and bored with childcare she preferred cleaning, and reading and the more complex and historical the book the better.

Carole, born in 1950, was Mona’s oldest daughter. Dark haired, green eyed, relentlessly cheerful she was determined to be helpful from childhood. She was a feminist, loyal wife, ambitious mother and conscientious employee. Living with a lifelong illness but determined that only her husband would know. She never wanted anyone to feel sorry for her. she was too busy trying to answer the question: can a woman have it all?

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