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  • Published: 15 July 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099542292
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $29.99

Dear Mr Bigelow

A Transatlantic Friendship




Charming and nostalgic, this recently discovered collection of letters – from a Bournemouth secretary to an American millionaire – is set to become a perennial favourite

Dear Mr Bigelow is an enchanting collection of weekly ‘pen-pal’ letters written over a twelve-year period (1949 to 1961) from an unmarried woman working in the Public Baths Department of Bournemouth Town Council to a wealthy American widower, Commodore Bigelow, living on Long Island, New York. They never met, and there was no romance – she was in her forties when he died aged ninety-eight – yet their epistolary friendship was her lifeline.

The ‘Saturday Specials’ as Frances dubbed them, are brilliantly-packed missives from austerity Britain: nuggets of social history elegantly interspersed with comic interludes from her own life. We follow her travails at the Baths (and her dreadful boss Mr Bond); weekly Civil Defence Classes as the Cold War advances; her attempts to learn to drive and the escapades with her first car Hesperus; and meet many Bournemouth regulars, including Mac, Frances's ne'er-do-well (but much-loved) brother and Rosalind, Mr Bigelow's daughter who visits for holidays in the English drizzle.

Most importantly we get to know Frances – and her deep affection for her Commodore pen-pal. Her letters to Mr Bigelow during his final illness offer a moving farewell, written in an era when people knew how to express their feelings with an elegance, wit and charm free from cliche and sentimentality.

  • Published: 15 July 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099542292
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $29.99

About the author

Frances Woodsford

Frances Woodsford was born in 1913. She was exceptionally bright at school, and an academic career looked likely, but her father died in 1927 the day she took Higher Matric. She left school to work as a secretary, to help provide for the family during the Depression. After taking an administrative job at a local garage, she taught herself engineering and ran practical workshops during the Second World War. When the war ended she took a position as secretary in the Public Baths Department of Bournemouth Town Council, where she worked for the duration of her correspondence with Mr Bigelow. Frances had eighty or more correspondents, but Mr Bigelow was particularly special and she wrote to him for twelve years up until his death in 1961.She continued to work for the Council until her retirement in 1974; her final position was as archivist. Extraordinarily, in 2006, her letters to Mr Bigelow came to light and were returned to Frances. They are the testimony of an ordinary life but their vigorous prose suggests that with other opportunities, Frances could have been a professional writer.Frances never married. She is ninety-five and lives in Bournemouth.

Praise for Dear Mr Bigelow

Many pleasing and interesting small touches...

David Kynaston, Literary Review

Packed with comic moments and social history, the letters are a beady commentary on her life and times

Fanny Blake, Woman & Home

A treat to be savoured

Peter Burton, Daily Express

Provide an insight into post-war Britain

Telegraph

This delightful collection of letters...a sequence of bright, witty and charming letters

Mail on Sunday

Anyone wanting to remember or discover the details of life in the Fifties, those dreary but cosy post-war years, should read this extraordinary book.

Susan Hill, The Lady

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