What Hetty Did by J L Carr is a gorgeously unclassifiable book. Hetty - real name Ethel - runs away from home in the Fens when she hears she is adopted. The news comes completely out of the blue just after Hetty has taken her A levels and hopes to get into Cambridge and after a fearsome row with her adoptive father. Her adoptive mother gives her an aquamarine brooch which was the only thing her biological mother left with her and tells her she was adopted in Birmingham.
Hetty decides she'll seek out her real mother having found her adoptive parents distinctly lacking and runs away to Birmingham. Here she is fortunate enough to find a temporary home with Rose who runs a boarding house - home to an eccentric collection of misfits. A job teaching at an inner city comprehensive is short lived as is a job cleaning grave stones. Hetty keeps in touch with her best friend Polly - also known as Mariana - and one of her teachers through whom she learns she has done well in her A levels.
But Hetty's aim is to find her biological mother and to find out why she was given up for adoption. The story of how she develops a wider view of life and becomes friends with people she would never normally have met makes a charming read. There are some marvellous one liners and some priceless incidents. J L Carr is, in my opinion, an underrated author and I shall be looking out for his other books.