Letters From Alice by Petrina Banfield
Two women. One secret. Will they be able to keep it under wraps?
It is a stormy evening in 1920s London. When newly qualified almoner, Alice, stepped into the home of Charlotte, a terrified teenager who has just given birth out of wedlock, she did not expect to make a pact that would change her life forever. Thrown into secrecy after an unexpected turn, Alice is determined to keep bewildered Charlotte and her newborn baby safe. But when a threatening note appears, she realises that Charlotte may need more protection than she first thought. But from who?
Based on extensive research into the archive material held at the London Metropolitan Archives, and enriched with lively social history and excerpts from newspaper articles, LETTERS FROM ALICE is a gripping and deeply moving tale, which brings the colourful world of 1920s London to life. Full of grit, mystery and hope, it will have readers enthralled from the very first page.
Letters from Alice is a mix of two of my favourite genre’s. It is very similar to a saga novel, yet there is a huge element of historical fiction. The research is outstanding; and I have a huge respect for the author on her accuracy.
The novel opens in April 1921 with young impressionable Alice Hudson summoned by PC Hardwicke to the London district of Bow. The scene is that of death, poverty and misery. A scene that will forever stay with Alice.
By New Years Eve 1921, Alice is now a much more experienced Almoner. She works hard to find Financial assistance, practical support and crisis management to family’s in dire need. When she makes an unannounced home visit to the Redbourne family. What she uncovers will stir up her previous trauma and compel her to take action.
The Redbourne family have five children, Charlotte (15yrs) is the one that causes Alice the most alarm. Although all the children appear to be undernourished and unkempt.
The history the Almoners and what they do, is fully explored. I had no previous knowledge of their existence and was able to fully enjoy the dramatic story. I felt the author did a fantastic job of explaining to the reader, rather than TELL the reader.
If you get what I mean.
Alice is called out to the Redbourne house again. This time it appears Charlotte has ‘lost her mind’. But Alice is determined to get to the bottom of the case and how Charlotte came to be with child at just 15yrs old.
‘Fear and grief masqueraded as madness’
‘She’s beyond helping, she’s morally corrupt’ – Mrs Redbourne
Whilst Mrs Redbourne maybe quick to condemn Charlotte on the unexpected arrival of her twin babies. Alice is not.
Charlotte’s son is stillborn but her daughter (Daisy) survives. With Charlotte’s future looking extremely bleak between the workhouse, asylum or a hostel.
Is there anything Alice can do to save these young girls?
‘It was as if the asylum were tainted with the same stigma that clung to those they treated’
The treatment of the staff at the asylum is often grim as they are regarded as lower class etc.
Charlotte appears frozen, warning Alice of ‘bad people, whom pretend to help’. Words that Alice makes it her duty to investigate.
Then Alice begins to receive threatening notes…..
‘I know what you did’
The novel fully explores the hardship faced by the poor. Also, how Alice must navigate the males in superior roles their ego’s and dominance over her duty of care.
‘The poor are blamed for everything that is wrong with this country as it is. Well, the poor and the refugees’ – Alice Hudson
Incredibly moving, a mystery at its heart and great plot twists. 5*