"come for a shilling's glimpse of the future"

Linhpi

Senior Member
Vietnamese
As in sentences: "Some of the women who came for a shilling's glimpse of the future had been left by their husband, even more had husbands killed at the Front. It was a pinched life the women led, and it easily could been hers."
(Atonement, Ian McEwan)

I tried googling on Internet but unfortunately this is the only sentence where the phrase appears. What does "come for" mean here? And "a shilling's glimpse"?

Thank you very much
 
  • GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    You named the book, but that is of little help to those of us who have not read it. What is the context of this sentence? In other words, what is the sentence that comes before it, and what is going on in the story at this point?

    Or are you just confused about the meaning of the word "shilling"? If so, it was a coin worth 1/20 of a British pound.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Normally, "to come [to a place] for [something]" has no special meaning. Here, it would mean that the women came to that place in order to pay a shilling to have a glimpse of the future.
     

    Linhpi

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    here is more context

    "<<Excess quoted text deleted by moderator. For full text CLICK HERE and search for shilling. >> Perhaps they would not have been so happy together as she had been living alone with her darling genius son in her own tiny house. If Mr. Tallis [her boss, who is very kind to her, give her a job and pay her son's school fee - my note] had been a different kind of man . . . Some of the women who came for a shilling’s glimpse of the future had been left by their husbands, even more had husbands killed at the Front. It was a pinched life the women led, and it easily could have been hers."


    I guess there is some metaphor here and interpret the sentence in red as "Some of the women who just got married in a hope of having a plain future had been left by their husbands"... But I'm not a native speaker and cannot found enough ground for my interpretation.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have read the book, but I don't remember the sentence.

    It sounds to me as though these women came to ask a gypsy fortune-teller (who charged a shilling, it seems) to read their palms or look into her crystal ball for them. Such gypsy fortune-tellers were a common feature of travelling fairs and seaside amusement parks. I can speak for their being common in 50s Britain, and I suspect they were also frequently found in such places during the 30s and the Second World War, when this part of the book is set.
     

    Linhpi

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    Actually I'm dealing with the Vietnamese translation of this book, there are many challenging sentences, but this is the champion among those. I asked a friend to have a look at the Chinese version and the result was not so satisfactory to me. They translated the sentence in red something as "The women who had the cheap future had been left by their husband" (which sounds kind of senseless to me).

    Maybe if i cannot produce any better idea, may be I'll take Thomas Tompion's advice and struggling to fit it into my mother tongue's grammar and structure .

    Just another small question: considering the verb tense used here, is is true that the action of "being left by their husband" happened first, then the one of "coming to have a shilling's glimpse of the future"?
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    As TT says, this is about fortune-telling.

    The character being described, Grace Turner, tells fortunes in her spare time. She has just held a session with a woman called Molly, who has been told that she will re-marry within five years and be very happy.

    A shilling is, presumably, the price paid to Mrs Turner by Molly and others like her who want to have a glimpse into the future.
    Just another small question: considering the verb tense used her, is is true that the action of "being left by their husband" happened first, then the one of "coming to have a shilling's glimpse of the future"?
    Yes. Some of the women who come to Grace Turner have been left by their husbands.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, Linhpi.

    Some of the women who came for a shilling’s glimpse of the future had been left by their husbands, even more had husbands killed at the Front.

    They came after they had been left, or their husbands had been killed. I'm very surprised it's not even more had had husbands killed at the Front. Are you sure that bit's right?

    I'm beginning vaguely to remember that Robbie's mother had psychic powers. Isn't this her way of making a living - telling people their fortunes? I may be totally wrong about that.

    A shilling would have bought quite a lot in 1939 - 45: it was worth about five pounds in today's money.

    P.S. Loob's post confirms that I was correct about some of this.
     
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    Linhpi

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    Thank you guys very much!

    @TT: No, you are not totally wrong about that. Robbie, proudly, told his friends about his mother who supplemented her income as an occasional clairvoyant.
    And it's not had had (my edition is Atonement, Ian McEwan, Vintage Books, London, 2007), just had. But now I think again and find that just a way of shortening. "...had been left by their husband, even more (had) had their..."...
     
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