There is only one Virago edition of this amazing book, although Penguin seem to also have published it with a green cover. I'm at a bit of a loss to know how to write about this book; the blurb on the back gives nothing away, and if I ever read the reviews on Amazon which explain the real-life story that it is based on then I had forgotten it. This meant that the conclusion of the book came absolutely out of the blue for me, and I could not have predicted it from the first chapters. So, I'm not going to tell you the events that it is based on, but I am going to plead with you to bump this book up your wishlist and avoid looking at Amazon reviews, because it enabled me to get through 2 evenings at Cambridge without feeling homesick at all.
I can briefly outline the story without giving too much away, and explain the meaning of the title. It is about a girl called Julia, who we meet as she is in her final years of school. She then goes on to work in a dress shop, and is swiftly promoted. Unfortunately, her home circumstances change when her father dies and her uncle and his family move in, making things uncomfortable and tense. She marries Herbert to escape, but never falls in love with him; things are bearable at first while he is away at war, but she becomes unhappy on his return. She begins an affair with Leonard, setting in motion the train of events that leads the book to its startling conclusion.
The title comes from an episode in an early part of the book; a young boy at Julia's school has a "peep-show" in a box - you can peer through a hole and see another world for the price of a pin. Throughout the book Julia is aspiring to find another world beyond her own life, but is forced to realise that she can't live in her imagination.