Marjorie Wilenski’s only novel, as biting and funny as Barbara Pym at her crankiest, follows an office of women translators at the fictional Ministry of Foreign Intelligence in London as they bicker, manoeuvre, and shift allegiances just before and then in the thick of the London Blitz. Its two main characters are sharply contrasted—the clever, efficient but terminally bitter middle-aged Elsie Pearne and the cheerful, pretty young newcomer Anne Shepley-Rice, whose once affluent family has fallen on hard times. Their colleagues include a fresh air fanatic, a busybody, an inept supervisor and her trusty deputy, the dithering, chatty Mrs Jolly, and a former lady’s companion who delights in bad news and disaster.
The cast of Table Two are instantly recognizable to any office worker of today. But this portrayal of a 1940s office is a rare treasure for modern readers, showing, with vivid detail and dark humour, how a group of independent, capable women experienced some of the darkest days of World War II.
Dean Street Press, 9781913054274