Miranda Emmerson’s debut novel Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars isn’t as whimsical as the title might at first suggest. But that fits with a book where it’s not only the missing actress who is playing a role (both on and off stage) or has something to hide.
Soho, 1965. When an American actress disappears from the Galaxy Theatre, her young dresser, Anna Treadway is determined to find out what happened to her.
Anna’s search will lead her through a London she barely knew existed: a city of reggae clubs and back street doctors, of dangerous prejudice and unexpected allies. She is aided by a disparate group of émigrés, each carrying secrets of their own.
But before she can discover the truth about Iolanthe, Anna will need to open herself – to her past, her present and the possibility of love.
The Field of Stars of the title is the play in which American actress Iolanthe Green is appearing right before she disappears, and Miss Treadway, or Anna, her dresser for the play’s run. But I also consider The Field of Stars to be a pretty good description of the cast of characters in the book. Although there are obvious leads, such as Anna, each one takes their turn in the spotlight and is memorable, without ever making the novel seem overcrowded.
Set in the London of 1965, this is a novel which looks at issues we still grapple with today, some fifty years on. Identity, isolation, love and acceptance, race, immigration, reproductive rights, society’s expectations and the role of women all play their parts here. As does the need for publicity to keep matters fresh in people’s minds and how often it’s left to individuals to keep a case alive, once the next sensational headline hits the press and grabs public attention.
The mystery of Iolanthe’s disappearance may drive the story forward but what makes the novel work so well is how multi-layered it is. Miranda Emmerson adds real depth to Miss Treadway & the Field of Dreams with the issues she covers, the ensemble cast of outsiders she puts together and how she chooses her moment for each deft reveal of another layer to the story. There’s an obvious affection for London’s West End in her description, too, even while taking us into some of its seedier parts.
Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars is a lively and evocative novel of 1965 London which tells the engaging stories of this diverse group of people and the secrets they keep, all wrapped up in a mystery. I enjoyed how much this novel surprised me and where it took me; it covered more ground, both literally and figuratively, than I was expecting. It’s a fabulous debut and I’m excited to hear that there’s going to be a second novel featuring Miss Treadway.
Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson is published by Fourth Estate and is available as an audiobook and ebook and in hardback and paperback. You can find it at Amazon UK or buy it from Hive which helps support your local independent bookshop. For more on Miranda Emmerson, check out her Author Website or follow her on Instagram or on Twitter.
*GIVEAWAY* I have one signed paperback copy of Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars to give away. Let’s do something a bit different and have you tell me what you’d like in your field instead of stars. (The squirrels, unsurprisingly, would quite like a field of pistachios.)