The Bomb Girls by Daisy Styles
My own copy
On an ordinary day in 1941, a letter arrives on the doormats of five young women, a letter which will change everything.
Lillian is distraught. And whether she tears, hides or burns the letter the words remain the same – she must register for compulsory war work. Many miles away, Emily is also furious – her dream job as a chef will have to be put on hold, whilst studious Alice must abandon her plans of college.
Staring at an identical letter, Elsie feels a kindling of hope at the possibility of leaving behind her brutal father. And down in London, Agnes has her own reasons for packing her bags with a smile.
Brought together at a munitions factory in a Lancashire mill town, none of them knows what lies ahead. Sharing grief and joy, lost dreams and gained opportunities, the five new bomb girls will find friendship and strength that they never before thought possible as they unite to help the country they love survive.
The Bomb Girls is an unusual series, in that each novel follows a different set of bomb girls. They are not a follow-on series such as The Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell. So, each book can be enjoyed as and when you want to read them! I am already earmarking the Christmas novel, for one of my December reads.
The novels are set in the small Lancashire town of Pendle. Being from Lancashire myself I recognised some of the small towns and villages mentioned. The novel follows Lillian, Emily, Elsie, Agnes and Alice. Five very different women, as they navigate their new post at the munitions factory in an old Lancashire mill. With each of the women being seconded to compulsory war work, life is far from easy. But the girls will come to bond and it is that growing sisterhood that makes this novel so beautiful.
Emily is from the small Lancashire mill town of Pendle. She has a boyfriend Raymond who is serving with the Lancashire Fusiliers. Emily is a fantastic cook and had dreams of culinary school before the war. Eventually she ends up being able to provide some much needed subsidence to the workers at the munitions factory. Although she does have to twist the arm of Mr Greenhalgh.
Alice is the clever gal of the group. She had plans to attend Manchester University and study a degree in the French language. She is also a bookish girl, that can often be found at Tonge Moor library. Although she is the group tomboy, she has had a grammar school education and had high hopes for her future. Nevertheless, she signs up at the labour exchange and finds herself at the old mill.
Elsie is a unique character, she signs up to the labour exchange to escape her home life. One that is filled with domestic abuse and unpaid labour. Her character really develops throughout the novel and her strength is inspiring.
Agnes lives in London, she has in one sense the most heart-breaking background. Her husband Stan is MIA. Her daughter Esther is not only an evacuee currently residing in the Lake District. But Esther is also recovering from polio. Agnes knows that a move to Lancashire is a move closer to Esther and so she takes her chances on life at the factory.
Lillian is the beauty of the group and she knows it. Lillian uses her charms and good looks, so breeze through life. When the female conscription is announced, to say she is unimpressed is a major understatement.
Can Lillian thrive at the factory? Will it change who she is?
The women arrive to their ‘hostel’ type lodgings. By hostel, I mean cowshed. They are joined by local women of Pendle, Nelson, Colne and Darwin. Their work involves long exhausting shifts and each of the women quickly makes alliances with each other and new best friends.
‘From now on we’re going to look after Agnes’ – Emily
The group band together to organise compassionate leave for Agnes to visit her daughter. It is then we see the true personal costs of MIA soldiers, polio and the plight of evacuees.
When the US and Canadian troops arrive in the UK, some of the girls find their eyes wandering. With Lillian, Emily and Alice actively going in search of these mysterious men.
There is love, laughter and an explosion at the factory.
Can the women survive the war with their hearts intact?
Alice is offered a job at the war office, a job that will see her leave Lancashire for London and more important work in the war effort. The women are left devastated by her departure but determined to stay in touch as best they can.
The novel is an emotional rollercoaster, there are ups and downs galore. The strength of the women and sisterhood that develops is what makes this a brilliant read. It also forms as sort of a ‘coming of age’ in the ww2 era for the women. When the novel starts out they may be naïve, but by the end of the novel they are toughened young women.
‘Lancashire folk are fighters and we don’t let folk down do we?’ – Gracie Fields
Journey through ww2 with the women of Lancashire. 5*