It's 1946. The Maidens are Ursula, Hetty and Lieselotte. Eighteen, and with scholarships under their belts, one will go to Kings College, London, and two to Cambridge. Or will they? Hetty has an interfering Mum, she gossips continually about her daughter with her friends at the local cafe, and then keeps saying sorry to Hetty afterwards. She's having a bit of a "thing" with the vicar too, and Hetty doesn't even know if her father understands this, since shell-shock in WW1 has reduced him to the duties of grave digger. Ursula, who's Mum is an amateur hairdresser working out of the front room of her house, has being going cycling with Ray, the boy who delivers the fish, since she was around 14. And then there's Lieselotte, a German jew who arrived on one of the last of the kindertransport trains from Germany in 1939, and who has been living a live of quiet desperation with a childless, Quaker couple ever since.
Over a period of a few months, between leaving school and starting at University, they all have adventures - not childish adventures, but life changing adventures. Hetty to the Lake District to get away from her Mum, who is writing a letter a day; Ursula overnight youth hostelling where she discovers her real feelings for Ray, and Lieselotte.... well, she has a rather more far flung adventure.
I held my breath several times in the hope that all would work out well for these different but likeable women on the thresholds of their adult lives. Don't think this is aimed at the YA market, it isn't; she doesn't have a group in mind when she writes, she just writes - but I'm sure anyone who loves Jane Gardam (and those who have not found her yet) will love this one.