The Deptford Girls by Patricia A McBride – the stories of a young woman during the London Blitz

The Deptford Girls by Paricia A McBride

Lily Baker is a young woman in the midst of a unique situation – the bombing of London during the Second World War. Amid a constantly changing scenery as formerly solid buildings are no longer there, this incident packed novel shows the effect of uncertainty, fear and danger have on Lily and those around her. This is the fourth book in a series featuring Lily Baxter, but I read it as a standalone and found its pace and action meant that I followed it well. Lily is in touch with women and men on the Home Front whether they are young and making discoveries about life, or older women struggling with children and other responsibilities. There are incidents which are unique to wartime, as the fighting comes near in various ways, through coping with the limitations on accommodation, to problems that would exist even in peacetime.  As Lily and her friends deal with racism, the problems of evacuees and mysterious businessmen, this is a book that maintains a fast pace of challenges for the women that Lily comes into contact with, while she has her own romantic issues. The amount of research that went into the incidents that make up the plots is amazing, as each challenge flows into another revelation or reflection. I found it a fascinating fictional account, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book. 

As the book opens the author uses the opportunity of introducing two new workers at the depot to introduce not only characters together, but to tour the depot itself, with hints as to the nature of the work Lily and some of her friends are engaged in as part of her military service. Her friend Bronwyn is her companion in having been bombed out twice, losing everything they possessed and having to find clothes in the rest centres. They often sleep in the tube, which is not just an adventure but an uncomfortable and crowded place which does not lead to a good night’s sleep. Lily does ARP work, which leads her to understanding the risk faced by the nights filled with raids, as well as helping her to cope with some of the situations with which she is confronted. A friend joins the WVS, and helps provide food for those enduring raids and other challenges. Bronwyn drives ambulances, and has her own experiences of death and injury.  An unexpected pregnancy means an exploration of the difficulties faced by young women at the time by institutions and social services. 

This book is a fictional overview of so many of the incidents and anecdotes of the Second World War that it is quite breathtaking. Lily is a sensitive and intelligent protagonist whose involvement in the situations described is always of significance, even if she is not the person at the centre of the crisis. This is a vivid and vibrant book of fascinating people, resolutions to situations, and a sure understanding of the setting of a bomb damaged London.I enjoyed reading of Lily’s adventures in this book, and would definitely be interested in reading others.   

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