"...She was born, a century ago now, in Paddington Green. Her father, who always worked in pubs, later ran his own establishment. So too did some of her relations and most of her friends, ‘old Jim and Hilda at the Star and Garter’, or ‘old Bernard at the White Horse’, or whoever it might be. She spoke as if everybody, me aged six included, should know who they were: as if publicans were a famed species. On a drive she would always peer at any pubs she passed, rather as if they were her personal responsibility. She even gravitated to a pub inside Harrods, the Green Man, a delightful little anomalous dark hole in the basement beside the men’s hairdresser, where she would sit at her observational post and drink a schooner of dry sherry. Long gone, of course.

Yes: she saw the whole of life through that particular prism, which was in fact a large and enlightened one. Pubs, to her, were not just a job. They were more like a calling. A way of being. A touchstone, a symbol. There was nothing mystical or delusional about her love of them, she knew perfectly well that they could be tawdry or nasty or criminally dull. But her greatness as a landlady came from the fact that she believed, with a true faith, that a proper pub was a beautiful thing..."


‘Just occasionally a book comes along that leaves you breathless with pleasure, admiration and a dash of envy too… Simply delicious’. Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday

‘Has all the visual richness and emotional power of a Terence Davies film’. Melissa Benn, New Statesman

‘An eclectic mix of social history and elegy, ironic comedy and indelible Englishness’. Roger Lewis, The Spectator

A Guardian, Spectator and Mail on Sunday Book of the Year 2018