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MISS TREADWAY AND THE FIELD OF STARS BY MIRANDA EMMERSON

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PUBLISHED BY HARPER COLLINS
REVIEW BY KAT ROBERTSON

In 1960s London, world famous starlet Iolanthe Green vanishes after performing on stage. Her dresser, Anna Treadway, is willing to risk her reputation and wellbeing to find her. But Anna soon discovers the consequences of partaking in the squalid nadir of London, and the difference between the gilt of fame and its tarnished reality.

The book opens with a prelude of press clippings, placing the absent actress firmly in the spotlight. An awkward interview and a mysterious phone call add an air of mystery, and a final moment with her before she vanishes immediately creates an urgency that does not let up for the entire book. Treadway jumps in a crazy patchwork of narrative, feeding the reader titbits of back-story in well-placed flashbacks. Slowly they reveal more of the characters and the reasoning behind their subversive acts.

As Anna’s perception of Iolanthe becomes fleshed out into a real, flawed person, so too does her view of London become refracted. Descriptions of her beloved, but filthy London are comparable to a romanticised T.S. Eliot. Anna becomes more cynical about ethics and authority as the book progresses, which is articulately exteriorised with her wry wit. Emmerson provides an unflinching portrayal of the city and the culture of the era, particularly in regards to racism and sexism: she puts a human face on generalised stories from the past.

While Anna continues to desperately search for clues about her missing friend, she is also forced to face her relationships with her loved ones. The less progressive thinking of the era has forced a number of them to make life-changing decisions based on the judgements of others, and Anna’s idealised view of love is challenged when she realises they are all suffering the consequences. Gripping until the end, Miss Treadway And The Field of Stars forces the reader to consider the idea that we are all looking for something, but there is a lot that we don’t want to see. 

Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.