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The Marriage Bureau: True Stories From 1940s London Matchmakers

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  644 ratings  ·  140 reviews
Librarian's note: An alternate cover edition can be found here

A riveting glimpse of life and love during and after World War II—a heart-warming, touching, and thoroughly absorbing true story of a world gone by.

In the spring of 1939, with the Second World War looming, two determined twenty-four-year-olds, Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver, decided to open a marriage bureau. Th
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Paperback, 352 pages
Published May 2nd 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published March 24th 2016)
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Deb Agreed. This was a curious omission to the end notes. Finally, I noticed in one of the Book Club suggested questions, that it referred to Mary Oliver…moreAgreed. This was a curious omission to the end notes. Finally, I noticed in one of the Book Club suggested questions, that it referred to Mary Oliver having had two marriages with no children in America. (less)

Community Reviews

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3.63  · 
Rating details
 ·  644 ratings  ·  140 reviews


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Shelly
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-release
Entertaining non-fiction that reads as fiction. I liked that it was more of a breezy read and not heavy non-fiction, but the way it was written made me wonder how much was fact and how much was the imagination of the author.
Alison
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had the pleasure of reading this book before it was published! I found it in a charity shop and immediately read it to get the inside scoop on the soon-to-be published book. While the idea of the book is inspired and really fascinating, the style of writing made it seem like a casual, "fly-book" or women's lit book. I wasn't challenged or felt like I really learned anything.

It felt so light that I wasn't really convinced it was 100% true either--which is what I was hoping for. It says non-fic
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Penny
Apr 08, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-history
I love Social History and looked forward to reading this - I was curious to see how a Marriage Bureau ever got going in 1940s England.
The first part was interesting although I rapidly got tired of being repeatedly told how tall, cool and gorgeously blonde Heather was and how petite, vivacious and dark haired Mary was.
The book then dived into sugary 'lurve' stories which I quickly tired of.
And Penrose Halson certainly loves an adjective! Why use one when you can use at least three??
Sorry, but t
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Christina McLain
This was a great, fast read about two enterprising young women who started a matchmaking service in 1939 for lonely-hearted British men and women. Their clients ranged from members of the aristocracy to ordinary working class people and the descriptions of some of the matches made are quite entertaining while others are poignant or even tragic. What made the book interesting to me were the sociological issues detailed here. It is sad to note that so many women of this time, young and old, had no ...more
Margaret Gerberding
An interesting non fiction book about two young women who started a marriage bureau in London in 1939. The bureau lasted into the 1990's, when it merged with another marriage bureau. Full of touching stories of love and hardship during WWII especially.
Kris
May 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting subject matter and was intrigued with this book because I had no idea that there was such a real business as this Marriage Bureau. It is a 1930s pre "online dating" concept. But the book was poorly written. It bored me after awhile.
Marlene
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published at Reading Reality

Fiction may be the lie that tells the truth, but sometimes that truism runs headlong into another, the one that goes, “The truth is not only stranger than we imagine, it’s stranger than we CAN imagine.” Fiction has to actually feel plausible, or it turns the willing suspension of disbelief into the unwilling, and bounces the reader out of the story. Nonfiction doesn’t have to be plausible, it just has to be true.

The history of The Marriage Bureau is one of
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Jenny
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not as interesting as I thought it would be. The stories often grew tedious.
Jane Dugger
Mar 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Very entertaining; although it was difficult keeping the names straight.
Debra Schoenberger
Super interesting and exceedingly entertaining. A bit of British history beginning in 1939 through WWII.
Katelyn
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fun, true stories of marriage matchmakers in 1940s London. Delightfully grounded in that time and place. A quick, enjoyable read.
Perryapril2
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I rarely read non-fiction so I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It is written in such a way that I would forget that it was based on a true story, it almost seemed fictionalized which made it so fascinating.

What a crazy idea to set up during WWII, yet at the same time was a genius idea. How else were service men and even women to meet when the men were off fighting the war in abstract locations and the women were working at home. (The bureau was in England). The stories related in this boo
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JD
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Old-timey Tinder. Fun and easy read. Reading about what people wanted in a partner reinforces the notion that marriage is a way to build a more manageable and functional life, not some fairy tale soulmate-finding exercise.
Jessica Howard
This is a super fun, breezy light nonfiction story about the establishment of a London marriage bureau. It was perfect before-bed reading — interesting, but not so interesting as to keep me up too late. 🙂
Jessica
Feb 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
I found this book to be very readable, with an interesting premise. This is a nonfiction account of a matching-making company established in London in 1939. The stories are interesting, but the book as a whole left me wanting something more. The writing was repetitive and confusing at times, and there wasn’t really a thread to pull the whole thing together. It’ll hopefully make for interesting book club discussion, though.
Rachel Wagner
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A charming read that would make a great tv show with each episode being a different match while also telling the story of Heather and Mary running the bureau.
Kathleen (Kat) Smith
Who would have thought that two women who simply didn't want to get married themselves would find a way to eke out living just before World War II? Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver both had everything to offer a man who was searching for a wife, both good looks, education and a willing heart for romance, only both of them wanted nothing to do with finding suitable matches for their own hearts, but felt they could match up their friends and family with men they knew overseas that were looking for l ...more
Monique Snyman
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Before Tinder there were the Classifieds, but there were dating services even before then ... Marriages are Made in Bond Street: True Stories from a 1940s Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson is a book that explains how two young women opened a bureau to match people together during mankind's worst war. In a world where death and destruction oppressed society, there was still a shiny beacon of hope, and Penrose Halson did a magnificent job in compiling a story told by one of the founders of Bond St ...more
N.
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Marriage Bureau is a nonfiction book, written with light-hearted verve, about two women who decided to start a matchmaking service in London in 1939. The idea was proposed by one of the women's uncles, Uncle George. Audrey (who later changed her name to Mary) decided it was a terrific idea because there were so many women like her, alreading declared "on the shelf" in her 20s after failed engagements. She convinced her friend Heather to join her.

The Marriage Bureau describes both the busine
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Bethany
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be extremely enjoyable! It is nonfiction but reads easily with lots of stories. I enjoyed the variety of stories and the lens through which the stories were told.
I do wish this would be turned into a television show...I suspect it would be just as enjoyable and endearing as Call the Midwife.
Diane
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before there was E-harmony or Tinder, there was The Marriage Bureau, which is recounted in Penelope Halson's book of the same name.

In 1938, twenty-four-year-old Audrey Parsons had already been through a litany of jobs near her home in England. She worked in a factory (too boring), as a dental receptionist (too bloody- she had to pick up teeth off the floor!), as a photographer's assistant (the darkroom was too dark), as a delivery girl for a cake shop (fired for eating the cakes) and as a riding
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BOOKLOVER10
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1986, Penrose Halson and her husband, Bill, bought the Katharine Allen Marriage and Advice Bureau. Before she became a matchmaker, Penrose, forty-six, had been a writer, editor, and teacher. The bureau was modeled on a special undertaking: the Marriage Bureau founded by Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War. In 1992, Heather Jenner's daughter asked Penrose to take over her clients. She agreed, and the two operations—Katherine Allen's and Jenner's--merged.

"
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Jani Brooks
May 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
London – 1939 to 1949

It is 1939 England, and most women dream of the perfect marriage. Few want a career, and most parents expect their sons to be educated and find jobs, and their daughters to find a husband. But for Audrey Parsons, a farmer’s daughter, finding a mate wasn’t working out well. After sailing to India to wed a young man who worked for her uncle, Audrey discovers that her intended is not at all what she wants in a husband. So back to England she goes, much to her parents’ dismay, w
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carrietracy
Nov 05, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book which is bound to cause pain to many readers. It is racist, clearly supports an imperialist agenda, slut-shames women, fat-shames everyone and positions those most vulnerable as pathetic pity cases or the butt of jokes.

The fact that it is a modern publication is incredibly alarming. You would think that one of the many people involved with the book would have suggested omitting certain anecdotes, reframing descriptions so as not to be hurtful or racist, but sadly no one seems to h
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Lesa
Romance, history, matchmaking, humor. It's all there in Penrose Halson's enjoyable account, The Marriage Bureau: The True Story of How Two Matchmakers Arranged Love in Wartime London. Before eHarmony and Match.com and Tinder, there was the Marriage Bureau, founded in London by Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver in 1939.

In 1986 author Penrose Hanson took over Katharine Allen Marriage and Advice Bureau in London. It had been founded in 1960, modeled on the Marriage Bureau. In 1992, Heather Jenner's da
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Stephanie
The Marriage Bureau tells the story of two young women during the WWII era who set up a matchmaking agency in London. At the time, it was a unique business and essentially worked the same way that online dating works today. The bureau immediately took off, with people lining up at their door to register and find their perfect match. While they sometimes failed horribly with their matches, they often helped people truly find love and marriage with their flourishing business.

This story was cute, q
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Just Commonly
May 31, 2017 rated it liked it
The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson is a "true story of how two matchmakers arranged love in wartime London." That in itself with that cute cover attracted me to it. Plus, lately, I'm on a "war-time" fiction kick. Just love the amount of rich details and the many different emotions novels set during those times can induce. Well, I was taken by surprise by this book on that aspect. Unfortunately, the rich details I love about books set during this time was not very forthcoming in The Marriage B ...more
Carrie Schmidt (Reading is My SuperPower)
When I first heard about The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson, I was immediately drawn to the concept and to the cover. As a fan of mail order bride/marriage of convenience stories, a true account of a couple of friends who decide to start a matchmaking service during WW2 London sounded right up my alley!

It’s written in a light style which really feels like a novel most of the time, a trait that both adds to the enjoyment and takes away at the same time. On the one hand, it’s easy reading. Noth
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Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com
The Marriage Bureau: The True Story of How Two Matchmakers Arranged Love in Wartime London by Penrose Halson is a non-fiction book by the current owner of the business. Mrs. Halson, a teacher, writer and editor bought the Bureau with her husband Bill.

This is an entertaining book, easy to read and charming. The book consists of a short history of Audrey Parsons and Heather who started the first matchmaking service in war time England (the Second World War), the hardships they endured from skeptic
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Alarie
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, wwii
This nonfiction book opens in 1939 England and reminds us that most young women had little choice in their futures at that time. Educational opportunities were not equal. Few women were trained to any profession. Even if they were, the chance of being hired and paid a living wage were rare. They had to marry a man to support them or be the spinster sent to work like a servant in some relative’s home. The situation was pretty much as sad for young men working in remote locations, for example, on ...more
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