A Far Cry From Kensington
by Muriel Spark
At the start of 1955, Mrs. Hawkins is a young and overweight editor who lives in a Kensington rooming house with assorted postwar types: a moderately rich girl who is trying her wings will inevitably fall pregnant, a devout old Polish seamstress, an Irish landlady, a hard-studying medical student. Her husband died in the war, and in point of fact they were scarcely married. By day, she is a skilled editor at a small but important publishing house which is hurtling toward bankruptcy. Everyone confides in the skilled and sexlessly unthreatening Mrs. Hawkens.
Then, one morning, Mrs. Hawkens decides it might be a good idea to lose weight. That changes everything. A skilled and lively portrait of a character whom everyone assumes to be uninteresting.