Sagas featuring a group of girls working together during wartime seem to be particularly popular at the moment, and this Christmas edition of the Bomb Girls is a representative sample of the type. This book is engaging and has enough jeopardy in it to be exciting and page turning, which is an achievement when the setting is largely rural and not affected by the London or any other city blitz. The characters were established in a previous book “The Bomb Girl Secrets” (the original “The Bomb Girls” was in the same setting but featured a different cast of girls), but it would be perfectly possible to read this book as a stand alone novel with enjoyment. This book draws its scope wider than the factory site and supporting village to great effect; and some of the newer characters bring with them problems that have not arisen before.
Gladys is the singer of the group whose dynamic talent meant an engagement with ENSA and foreign travel to entertain the troops. However, as the book opens, she has returned to England in something of an uncharacteristically downhearted state. Edna, one of the older women associated with the group looks to be finding true love at last, but will she discover more? A new character, Rosa, appears as a new worker. Exiled from Europe by reason of her Jewish descent, she emerges as a fascinating character whose talents and affection for the other women goes some way to ease her loneliness and sadness. While Kit and Violet seem well settled after their traumas of the previous novels, they have new circumstances and challenges to deal with in this book which take their stories in different directions. It is Gladys’ story which dominates, as she experiences sorrow before heading off in different way. It is at this point that my major criticism of this book emerges; she finds herself in London which is still undergoing a Blitz which I felt was very late, and her work seems to hark back to the conditions of the First World War in the movement and description of the soldiers. Still, a real romance is discovered and some explanations are made.
This book is certainly more than just a Christmas read, as much of the narrative concerns events long before the Christmas celebrations in which it culminates. It is a touching climax to an enjoyable novel which succeeds in many of the necessary elements of this sort of saga. It is a truly female led novel, in which virtually all the action is led by the women of the title. All of life’s major hurdles are dealt with in this well written novel which conveys many of the challenges of the wartime experience. I enjoy Styles’ writing which is mature and competent, given that she deals with some very difficult situations in this novel. I found Rosa’s experiences very moving and a different element to these books which are usually focused on the British circumstances in wartime. Despite my criticism this book is well researched and well written, and I recommend it as a good read.
So we are getting near Christmas, and many other book bloggers are writing “best of 2018” type posts. I’m not sure that I am quite capable of going through all my posts and sorting out only ten, as I have read some really good books this year, some of which have been much better than I expected. Possibly I’ll tackle a highlights type post in which I look back on some posts.
Meanwhile, the crib figures are behaving themselves a little better in the hall. Daughter arrives tomorrow, so she can supervise the cleaning and possible repainting of the figures…