Anne Bonny #BookReview The Bomb Girls by Daisy Styles 5* #ww2Fiction #Saga #Lancashire @PenguinUKBooks ‘Journey through ww2 with the women of Lancashire’

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The Bomb Girls by Daisy Styles
My own copy
Synopsis:

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.

My Review:

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*

More information about Daisy Styles

Anne Bonny #BookReview Call Of The Curlew by @ManxWriter Elizabeth Brooks #HistoricalFiction #Literary #ww2Fiction #NewRelease @TransworldBooks ‘This novel is simply beautiful’

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Call Of The Curlew by Elizabeth Brooks
Review copy
Synopsis:

Virginia Wrathmell has always known she will meet her death on the marsh.

One snowy New Year’s Eve, at the age of eighty-six, Virginia feels the time has finally come.

New Year’s Eve, 1939. Virginia is ten, an orphan arriving to meet her new parents at their mysterious house, Salt Winds. Her new home sits on the edge of a vast marsh, a beautiful but dangerous place. War feels far away out here amongst the birds and shifting sands – until the day a German fighter plane crashes into the marsh. The people at Salt Winds are the only ones to see it.

What happens next is something Virginia will regret for the next seventy-five years, and which will change the whole course of her life.

My Review:

Call Of The Curlew is another novel released this year with phenomenal characterisation. The character of Virginia Wrathmell slowly captivates your heart, as you turn the pages. It is quite tricky to explain, as we don’t just meet the 86yr old Virginia, but we meet her at 11yrs old and watch her come of age in difficult circumstances.

The novel opens with Virginia in the present day. It is New Years Eve and she is waiting for a sign. A sign of her death…… on the marsh. When it arrives in the unusual fashion of the skull of a Curlew. I didn’t grasp the significance straight away. But it becomes very clear as the novel progresses and on the last few pages.

December 1939, saw Virginia’s arrival from Sinclair house a local orphanage to Salt Winds. Where she is finally brought to live with her adopted parents Clem and Lorna Wrathmell. Virginia doesn’t instantly bond with Lorna, that will come much later. But her instant love and affection for Clem, is beautiful to see. She meets Bracken the dog and Mrs Hill the cook. Life at Salt Winds, seems to be one of luxury, Virginia has previously unknown. Clem is sure to issue a stark warning to Virginia about the dangers of the marsh. . .

“Tollbury Marsh is good for birds but bad news for people, so you must promise me that you’ll not set foot on it. Never ever’ – Clem

With every great story comes a great villain and this novels villain is Max Deering. He is rude, obnoxious and full of self-righteousness. Virginia took an instant dislike to him and she isn’t the only one. However, this being 1939 people weren’t so quick to ignore or distance themselves from their neighbours. They relied upon them intensely during the war and the home front effort was evident throughout history. So, the Wrathmell’s find it increasingly difficult to keep Max from their door. As he continues to darken it.

There is a particular incident with Mr Rosenthal, a German Jew is belittled by Max and spoken of as though he is unworthy. I suppose due to Virginia’s upbringing in an orphanage this strikes a chord with her.
It becomes something she will never forgive Max Deering for.

Back to the modern-day 2015 and Virginia sees the arrival of an uninvited guest at Salt Winds. Sophie is a young woman claiming to be lost upon the marsh paths. Something Virginia knows to be untrue and yet serves to make her further grumpy. She reluctantly invites in her new guest.

‘The Curlew has reminded her how to hate’ – Virginia

In June 1940 Max Deering suffers a personal loss when the train carriage carrying his daughter Juliet is bombed. Leaving Max alone with son Theodore. This pushes the Deering’s closer to Salt Winds, much to Virginia’s disgust!
She is invited to Theodore’s 11th birthday party and sets off on the walk with her father Clem. When he spots an enemy plane fallen down upon the marsh. Despite the great risk to himself, Clem decides to attempt to save the enemy. Clem is never seen again. A search party is organised. Yet no sight of Clem can be seen. An optimistic Virginia remains adamant he will return.

It is at this point Virginia and her adoptive mother begin to bond. It is a relationship that is beautiful to watch develop but is not without its dangers from outside predators.

“We cannot afford to make an enemy of Max Deering” – Lorna

As Mrs Hill begins to lose her patience with Lorna, old secrets are brought to the surface. Virginia learns more and more about her adoptive parents and their pasts. Then the women must unite as they rescue Mr Rosenthal. They hide Jozef Rosenthal in the attic, away from Max’s prying eyes. But is Jozef who he says he is?

In the modern-day Sophie makes some confessions about her own ancestry when she spots her grandfather on a photo in Virginia’s house. It would appear young Sophie has a tie to Virginia’s past too.

This novel is simply beautiful 4*

Elizabeth Brooks Twitter

Anne Bonny #BookReview East End Angels by @hendry_rosie Rosie Hendry #ww2 #Saga #WomenOfWW2 ‘East End Angels tells the story of three fascinating women and their journey through ww2’

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East End Angels by Rosie Hendy
My own copy from tbr pile
Synopsis:

Meet The East End Angels, the newest members of Station Seventy-Five’s ambulance crew

Strong-willed Winnie loves being part of the crew at Station Seventy-Five but her parents are less than happy. She has managed to avoid their pleas to join the WRENS so far but when a tragedy hits too close to home she finds herself wondering if she’s cut out for this life after all.

Former housemaid Bella was forced to leave the place she loved when she lost it all and it’s taken her a while to find somewhere else to call home. She’s finally starting to build a new life but when the air raids begin, it seems she may have to start over once again.

East-Ender Frankie‘s sense of loyalty keeps her tied to home so it’s not easy for her to stay focused at work. With her head and heart pulling in different directions, will she find the strength to come through for her friends when they need her the most?

Brought together at LAAS Station Seventy-Five in London’s East End during 1940, these three very different women soon realise that they’ll need each other if they’re to get through the days ahead. But can the ties of friendship, love and family all remain unbroken?

My Review:

East End Angels tells the story of three fascinating women and their journey through ww2. The novel is the first in a series and perfectly builds the foundations for further novels. The three women are all very different in personality and I look forward to watching them grow and develop through the series. I already own the next in the series Secrets Of The East End Angels on my bookshelves.

The East End Angels comprise of: Stella Franklyn (Frankie), Margot Churchill (Winnie) and Peggy Belmont (Bella). They are members of the 75 ambulance crew, with Frankie their newest member. Overseeing their work is Station Officer Violet Steele. There is also transferred in new recruit William McCartney (Mac).

‘We look out for each other at station 75’ – Bella

The girls form a fantastic team and as the novel progresses we see them on various call-outs and in action. It is quite shocking some of the scenes they must contend with and overcome. At times forced to make tough choices with little time to think or plan. But together they make a formidable team.

William offered an interesting narrative into the plot. As William in a conscientious objector. I read a lot of ww2 fiction and saga’s, yet I think this is the first time I have come across a conscientious objector as a character.
So, I looked forward to every scene he was in.

‘I’m not a coward; I just can’t kill’ – Mac

Slowly we begin to learn each girl’s backstory. Stella’s homelife is far from perfect, but she takes comfort in nurturing an evacuee. Winnie was born in India and raised in considerable wealth and her mother tries to play a huge part in her life choices. Bella is possibly the quietest of the bunch, she has experienced a hard life and thanks to the air raids, it continues to get tougher.

The story of the male characters is told as they confide in their sisters. I thought this was a fantastic idea. I am one of eight siblings, I cannot even begin to imagine how life would have been for us growing up during ww2. But I know my brothers would perhaps confide their fears to me and my sisters. I think this also offered a different dynamic to the confiding soldier we see so often in ww2 fiction or saga’s with confidence only being between lovers.

There is love, smile and laughter amongst the team. As the battle the aftermath of catastrophic air raids and the devastation they leave behind. There is even a search and rescue dog named Trixie. The novel has a personal focus solely on the characters and their role in the ambulance crew.
It reminded me of the novels/TV series Call The Midwife. 4*

RH
Rosie Hendry
Website
Twitter

Next in the series. . . .
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Secrets Of The East End Angels by Rosie Hendry

Anne Bonny #BookReview Should You Ask Me by @MarianneKav #NewRelease #Historical #Literary #ww2 @HodderPublicity @HodderBooks ‘I especially love the inclusion of an 86yr old protagonist who is captivating.’

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Should You Ask Me by Marianne Kavanagh
Review copy
Synopsis:

‘I’ve come about the bodies. I know who they are.’

Mary is eighty-six years old, and she’s tired of being quiet.

She has a story to tell, and she’s only going to tell it once, so she won’t be rushed.

Especially as it’s not just a story, it’s a confession.

Because Mary has a dark secret, buried decades before. And while William, the nice young constable, might think she just wants someone to talk to, everything she says forces him to confront his own difficult past.

A unique and poignant novel about passion, regret and heartbreak, set during one of the most tumultuous periods of modern British history.

My Review:

This is such a quirky novel! I was really surprised as it was not what I was expecting at all. The cover gives the impression of a mystery/thriller, which it is. What you don’t fully grasp is that this is set amongst the backdrop of ww2. I felt as though I was going on a journey with Miss Mary Holmes, a journey through her past. I was absolutely hooked! I think this would make a great TV drama. I especially love the inclusion of an 86yr old protagonist who is captivating.

The novel opens on a normal Monday morning in Dorset. The only thing slightly unusual is that Mary makes her way to the police station to make a confession. When I say ‘slightly unusual’ that is because Mary is known to spin a yarn or two. . .

‘You could say that I killed them’ – Miss Holmes

Recently in the little town of Acton there has been the discovery of two people’s remains. When Mary Homes makes her confession to the on-duty young constable William, it is clear she has a story to tell. She starts with her brief admission that she is responsible for both deaths. The whys/how’s are going to take much longer to get to the bottom of. This is a secret Mary has held for 60yrs.

‘I’m eighty-six years old. I’m tired of being quiet’ – Miss Holmes

The chapters also alternate between Mary’s past and that of William the police officer she is confessing too. It would seem both of them have a past and both of them have secrets.

‘The guilt eats away at you. A lifetime of telling lies’ – Miss Holmes

Over a series of days, Mary’s story is eventually unravelled by the ever-patient and attentive William It is a long drawn out story, but it is intriguing nevertheless. This novel is slow-burning as clearly stated. But it is one of those cosy reads, you’d enjoy by a log fire. I did find the story to be very realistic. My background is in adult mental health and I have worked in dementia care. I can assure you, the elderly often harbour, some secrets you’d never suspect by simply looking at them. 4*

MK
Marianne Kavanagh
Website
Twitter

Anne Bonny #BookReview The Shipyard Girls by @arevellwalton 5* #Saga #ww2Fiction #WomenOfww2 @arrowpublishing ‘easily rivals Josephine Cox’ #MustReadSeries

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The Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell – Shipyard Girls #1
Review copy
Synopsis:

Sunderland, 1940, and the women go to the shipyards to do their bit for the war effort.

Polly never dreamed she would be able to work in the shipyards like the men in her family but times are tough and her new job ends up giving her more than she ever expected when she meets enigmatic dock diver Tommy Watts.

During the day, head welder Rosie teaches her fledgling flock of trainees their new trade, but at night she hides a secret life.

And mother hen Gloria signs up to escape her brutal husband, but finds she cannot run from her problems.

The Shipyard Girls start off as strangers – but end up forging an unbreakable bond of friendship in the most difficult times.

My Review:

This novel is the first in the Shipyard Girls series and has been sat on my tbr pile for quite some time. I am a huge fan of the saga genre but have been super busy lately with crime fiction reviews. I decided it was time for a visit to 1940 Sunderland and see what these books are all about.

The novel opens in the warm and homely house of Polly. Her mother, Agnes lost her husband in The Great War and has raised her children (now adults) alone. She is the matriarch type character, but it is born of love and desire to see her kids succeed. Polly’s twin brothers Teddy and Joe have joined up. Leaving their jobs at the shipyard for the frontlines. Sister-in-law Bel and daughter Lucille reside at the property, whilst they wait for Joe’s return from war. This is a house filled with love and built on doing their best to survive the war and trying times they face.

When Polly gets a job at J.L Thompson & Sons shipbuilders, she is apprehensive of the response of her mother. But she is from a long-line of shipbuilders and determined to continue the trade.

‘This wasn’t just about getting another job for Polly – it was a dream come true’

The role of women in ‘male roles’ is debated, and Agnes is forced to back-down or contradict her own beliefs on equality. I think Agnes is also tortured by the death of her husband and risk to her sons. She just wants Polly to be as safe as possible. With the docks being a target for German aircraft, that isn’t always the case.

Rosie Thornton is a much more complex character. She is the boss at the shipyard, where the women are trainees. But she also harbours a secret. A secret she will go to great lengths to protect. A secret so damning that its exposure could be the ruin of Rosie and her sister Charlotte. But what Rosie doesn’t know, is that someone is watching her and waiting for the right moment to spring a trap. . . .

Although the novel deals with several darker themes and not forgetting the background of ww2. It does have many moments when it made me smile or laugh out loud. Between Agnes’s gossip and dialect or the girls banter at the shipyard. The light-hearted moments within really did deliver. Which makes you grow more attached to the characters.

The women at the shipyard consist of Polly, Dorothy, Gloria, Mary, Martha and boss Rosie. They all notice when Polly catches the eye of shipyard hunk Tommy Watts. . .

‘Polly had a slightly strange but exciting premonition that they somehow belonged together’

Tommy’s background is further explored, and you learn that he has much in common with Polly. I may not be a huge fan of romance, but I wanted Polly and Tommy to fall in love. After all, the world needs love, right?

The sinister man following Rosie, has his trap set and is ready to pounce. He is a truly vile character and I dreaded the moment Rosie would come face to face with him.

At work, the girls begin to notice bruise’s that appear on Gloria’s arms and neck. They become concerned for her welfare, but due to the era and social attitudes, dare not pry. Gloria is dealing with the internal shame of being a victim of domestic abuse. Her life being held hostage to drink and violence. What I found unusual about Gloria’s portrayal is that she is an older female character. She has been married 19yrs, and has grown-up children away at war. She isn’t the typical naïve, young victim we see too often portrayed in saga novels.

Overall, I absolutely loved the Shipyard Girls. There are themes of secrets, intimidation, gossip and trials of adversity. There is first love and old love reignited. But most of all the women’s strength, sacrifice and courage shines through. The sisterly protection Polly, Rosie and Gloria come to have for one another is perfection.

The perfect recipe for a ww2 saga and easily rivals Josephine Cox.
If you read this book, you will find yourself buying the whole series. 5*

Nancy Revell
Nancy Revell
Website
Twitter
Just £1.99 in Ebook – At time of blogging!

***Coming next in the series***
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The Shipyard Girls At war by Nancy Revell – Shipyard Girls #2
Review scheduled for 2nd May #ComingSoon