Rachel Malik was born in London in 1965 of mixed English and Pakistani parentage. She studied English at Cambridge and Linguistics at Strathclyde. For many years she taught English Literature at Middlesex University.
Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves is her first novel, a novel based very loosely on the life of her grandmother – the Miss Hargreaves of the title. It is an extraordinary story, but she knew nothing about it, or her, until she was well into adulthood when her mother told her that her mother, Rene, hadn’t died young but had disappeared. More precisely, she had abandoned her three young children and her husband and disappeared into the mist of World War Two. My mother never saw her again.
She had become a Land Girl somewhere in Berkshire, working for a woman farmer. They had struck up a friendship or perhaps it was more, she said, because many years later they were still living together in Cornwall. Last, but by no means least, her mother told her that, in the early 1960s, Rene had stood trial for the murder of a man whom she remembered being described as her lodger.
Rene was a woman who had attempted to build a new life, after dramatically breaching the gender rules. She refused to be a wife, she refused to be a mother, but only after trying to be both. She ran away and began a different way of living, a hard one, far from the city streets she knew, and she stuck with it.