Vivien grew up in North London, graduated in Art History at the University of East Anglia and later gained an MA in Scriptwriting from Salford University. She lived in Ware for over twenty-five years, and for even longer has taught Creative Writing and been a script reader for an authors’ advisory service.
Her latest novel, The Testing of Rose Alleyn (186 Publishing, 2021), is the second in her Rose Alleyn series. The Escape of Rose Alleyn was published in 2020 by Headline Press and given a Zoom launch by The Book Nook in Ware in November of that year. Vivien is also a published poet. She has two children and two grandchildren, and lives with her husband, the poet John Freeman, in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The Testing of Rose Alleyn is the second in Vivien’s series about Rose, though it can be read independently of the first, The Escape of Rose Alleyn. Both novels, narrated by Rose herself, are about a 16-year-old girl in the year 1900, who leaves her rural home to work in the nearest town, called Widdock, which is loosely based on Ware.
When her mother dies, late in her twentieth pregnancy, Rose resolves never to marry. Defying expectations, she escapes the same fate as her siblings in service and, due to a chance encounter with the charismatic Leonard Pritchard, starts a new life working at his bookshop. At Apple Tree House, where she lodges, she forges strong female friendships, not least with the hostel’s cultured owner, Mrs Fuller. But just as Rose thinks she has gained independence, family duty calls her home. Will she ever find her own happiness?
The Escape of Rose Alleyn and The Testing of Rose Alleyn paint a portrait of the social and political currents of the times as reflected in a small market town. Both novels centre on Pritchard’s Bookshop, which becomes a focus for a ferment of ideas and literary discovery. This is also a love story, a family saga and a lyrical celebration of the countryside.