The Woolworths Saturday Girls by Elaine Everest
The Woolworths girls are back! That is the excellent news behind this latest book in a series of seven books featuring the lives and loves of Sarah, Maisie and Freda and those around them, including the welcoming and wise matriarch Ruby.This novel is set in 1950, so after the Second World War which has formed the background for most of the previous books. This book features the teenagers who have become the daughters of some of the women most associated with Woolworths, Maisie and Betty. These four, sisters Bessie and Claudette, and Clementine and Dorothy, are a group of mixed ages, dreams and experiences, but they are brought together by their part time work at the well known shop in Erith, Kent. The focus having moved onto the four teenagers, this book would work as a standalone, an introduction to this small town and its inhabitants. As always this author combines insights into the lives of her characters with a genuinely interesting storyline against the background of time and place. Her research into the small details of life is impeccable, but never interrupts the narrative. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this enjoyable book.
Bessie and Claudette have been brought up by the loving and ambitious Maisie, who left working at Woolworths some time before in favour of making and reviving clothes to sell in her own shop. Happily being able to leave her younger children in the care of Sadie, she has recently decided to branch out into a more ambitious business adventure. Sarah is impressed by her plans for a disused industrial site, but Ruby has mixed memories of the area from long ago. Part of Maisie’s plans involve providing fulfilling arrears for Bessie and Claudette, the latter having a distinct flair for designing and making clothes. Bessie, meanwhile, as picked up by the sensitive Sarah, has other ideas, and is falling under the influence of some local boys who are already gaining a reputation. Clementine, the eldest step daughter of Store manager Betty, is meanwhile finding being at her current school very challenging, and a fight which erupts on the shopfloor alerts Sarah to Clementine’s plight and indeed potential for business. As the book progresses it seems that it is not only the adults who must deal with complex problems. Bessie, her sister and two friends must come together to deal with both her immediate and long term difficulties, all without alerting their parents and the others to her situation. As the adults struggle with their concerns for the future, especially as Freda’s husband seems destined for other things, memories and worries distract the older women from what is really going on with the teenagers.
In this book Everest manages the tricky task of keeping storylines affecting the older characters going alongside a considerable struggle for Bessie as she discovers her pregnancy. The “Saturday Girls” must pull together to give real hope to a young woman who encounters an age-old problem in a new world, and depend on others to “save the day”. This book is full of vibrant and relatable characters with all their challenges, and I recommend it to all who have enjoyed this series so far, as well as those who have yet to discover this community of interdependent women and men.