Monica Dickens, great-granddaughter of Charles, worked as a cook for two years, having worked in 20 different homes by the time she was 23 years old. A publisher she met by chance gave her a contract to write a book about being a cook-general, and then she was off to the races, publishing more than 30 books in all.

In Mariana, we meet Mary taking a long weekend with her dog, away in the country to escape people’s invitations to keep her mind off her husband’s absence in the war. A storm hits, her telephone line knocked out, but she hears a BBC report that a naval ship is sunk. Without any way to get word that night about the fate of her husband, she resigns herself to thinking about the past, and so we launch into Mary’s childhood love of cousin Denys. Then she decides to follow her uncle’s thespian footsteps and studies acting until she’s thrown out of the school. She learns dressmaking in Paris and meets a rich attractive Parisian who asks her to marry him. On a holiday home to England, she sees her mother struggling with money problems in the dress shop she runs, decides she’ll marry Pierre to save her mother. When Pierre comes to England to visit, her mother confides that her money problems have disappeared with the loan of £1,000, and Mary breaks it off with Pierre. A few years later she meets Sam as she’s suffering from a burst appendix, and they fall in love, marry. It’s Sam who’s off at war, and once we’re all caught up to present day, Mary rushes into the village to make a phone call, to find that someone has been trying to reach her all night; it was Sam, with his characteristic “for the love of mud” exclamation.