I have been able to dig out some old books from my second hand store and these are very interesting reading. It shows me very specifically how glad I am to live in the present times!! As a woman I would have found it very difficult to conform to what was expected and not to create waves. On the other hand who knows - most probably I would have simply complied.
Harold - a conservative Chartered Accountant has very set ideas of how things should be - from the position of his wife, to what and what not his wife should even know about his business, his income, his clients. Isabel on the other hand feels she is defined by the term "wife" and that there is a somewhat job description for this role and you should not step out of it. But Isabel is a bit of a rebel who has lived life on her own in London for a time and knows what independence is about.
The cat is set amongst the pigeons when Harold meets Alec the writer on a train (in a first class compartment with a third class ticket). This in itself is a blow to Harold's sensibilities - one should know one's place and situation in life. The arrival of Alec upsets the proverbial applecart. Harold's tidy little world is turned upside down by Alec's request to try to procure the gentle barmaid for himself - and Isabel invites Irma to a Woman's Institute meeting to welcome her into the community. When Harold eventually falls in love with Irma and Isabel falls in love with Alec the entire story is changed and what was a fairly staid marriage becomes one of deceit, lies and subterfuge.
The story is a good one - describing human relationships, the twists and turns and how emotions do rule us despite one trying to stick to what one is supposed to do. How a conservative couple who on the surface are pillars of society can come undone due to boredom and sameness in their marriage are very vividly shown here. A situation common today as it was in 1956 when the book was published.