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The Crack Magazine

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Book of the Month: The Misadventures of Margaret Finch by Claire McGlasson

The Mass-Observation project was set up in 1937 with the aim of recording everyday life. Hundreds of people maintained diaries, replied to questionnaires, or anonymously jotted down people’s conversations and behaviour. In Claire McGlasson’s excellent second novel, Margaret Finch – a demure, twenty-something woman – answers the call to be a volunteer for the project and hunkers down in Blackpool where she hopes to observe, and record, the working classes at play. It’s 1938, which is something of a golden period for the resort. Whole towns decamp to this northern playground with one aim: to let their collective hair down. Margaret spends her time moving among the hopped-up throngs while surreptitiously recording their words and deeds. (She even risks a jaunt beneath one of the piers at night – there have been rumours of “knee tremblers”). Also in the mix is Blackpool’s latest attraction, Harold Davidson, a defrocked rector and – because of his sundry relationships with young women – a tabloid darling. He’s currently trying to clear his name while also charging punters to come and see him. Needless to say, it isn’t long before the paths of Margaret and Harold cross. The title of this book may lead you to think that it’s an overly larky tale, but that would be doing it a disservice. The stakes are relatively low here, but tension is provided by Margaret’s actions. Is it enough for her to just observe life, or does she need to start participating? RM

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