A new saga series set in Hull, 1940, is a good thing, and this immensely readable book is a wonderful first book. A young woman, Edie, makes her way along Jubilee Row, struggling with a big suitcase. She has a secret, but those observing her are intrigued by where she is headed. Two families, the Maguires and the Scuttles, are dominated by strong women who pride themselves on their involvement with and knowledge of the streets of their area. They know that Edie is going to be sharing a house with Patience, who has many issues. There are daughters of both families who have had to learn to live without their husbands, for the war is affecting everyone. The shelters are well used. Two brothers, Charlie and Sam, have very different experiences, as some are still affected by a previous war. Meanwhile Joyce is enduring a marriage which has turned to abuse, and worries about her son Alan.
This a book that examines through the eyes of people immersed in the changes and challenges of war. It introduces and develops the stories of individuals and a community brought together by adverse circumstances in a lively and engaging way. I was really pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
Edie’s story is a common one, as she recalls her lost love Rob, an RAF officer who was killed over France. Her pregnancy is going to become obvious shortly, but her stepmother Rose still ensured that she had no home elsewhere. The two residents of the ground floor of the house, Patience and Horace, have a sadness of their own, and Patience is keen to preserve her home as a sanctuary. Meanwhile, young widow Iris is aware of her life long friend Sam’s interest in her, but cannot begin to think of anyone else after Arthur’s death. Edie has to discover the truth about those around her as she tries to establish herself in her new surroundings, and the reader too can be surprised and intrigued by the various people in the area. As Joyce finds daily challenges her story is particularly affecting, and many issues about the lack of choice for married women at the time are well explored. There is also closeness demonstrated between some people which is positive, although in every encounter there is the sense of threat from a war which is in the background.
I really enjoyed this book as a really lively and well paced read. There is a drive as the characters reveal much about their previous lives, and the revelations are well paced against a background of air raids and the real impact of war. I found this book immensely readable and it kept me wondering about the truth about each character; there are moments of real suspense deliberately created and well played out. I was genuinely taken by surprise by some of the revelations which emerged. This is a saga which keeps moving and developing as the reality of life in Hull is revealed. There is a lot of research here that is well written into the story, it never holds up the flow of the narrative. I recommend this lively book with plenty of drama and human interest.