A Ration Book Daughter by Jean Fullerton
The London Blitz affected people in more ways than the obvious danger from falling bombs; it dictated a way of life for those throughout the capital. Cathy is a young woman for whom the war is hard, but not because her husband Stan is away. That is actually a relief, as Stan is a brutal and violent man, and Cathy has not only herself to worry about, but also her small son Peter. She knows that divorce is not an option for a daughter of the Brogan family, but at least she can claim support from her sisters and brothers, and most especially her parents. Living in her rented house is challenging however, as Stan’s mother is ever present, full of verbal abuse, undercutting every action of a brave young woman trying to do her best. A message concerning her husband gives her hope, and when she meets Sergeant Archie McIntosh of the Bomb Disposal Squad she glimpses that there may be more to life. Not that her life is ever easy, and there are traumas in this novel that reflect so many aspects of London life at this period described with real feeling, as well as vivid characters who really live on the page. This fifth book in the series would also work as a standalone novel, as each character is so well introduced and Cathy is especially the focus of this well written book. Although solidly set in wartime, this book tackles some issues that are still a concern today, and the family support is so well described that it is an entertaining read. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this well written book.
The book opens with Cathy working as a Woman’s Voluntary Service organizer, sorting out clothes for those struggling with the loss of clothes in the bombing. She appreciates the problems of having a child in the circumstances, as the Army only pays a small amount to those looking after children even as rationing bites into every aspect of life. She does the voluntary work as she can take advantage of the nursery for Peter, and it gets her out of the house and away from her thoroughly unpleasant mother in law Violet. When she receives a telegram informing her that her husband is missing in action she almost visibly rejoices, as being the widow of her abusive Stanley is infinitely preferable to being his wife. Meanwhile Archie is trying to deal with an unexploded bomb, and as always, although the mechanical process is dangerous, so is dealing with Lieutenant Monkman, theoretically the officer in charge but who is rapidly becoming a liability to Archie and his squad. They meet as Archie rescues the lively Peter, and the mutual attraction is obvious. He is in a dangerous job, and Cathy cannot think of life as a free woman for months, but a glimmer of hope exists. Tragedy, lies and trouble lie ahead, and Cathy and Archie will have much to contend with over the next weeks, while coping with the memories of what has gone before.
This book allowed me to enjoy the picture of a community and family pulling together at some points, while dislike and suspicion also occur against a background of the challenges of war. Fullerton is an experienced writer who has a great ability to keep her various characters going along their own paths, while focusing on one situation in particular. It is a mark of a good writer that their writing can evoke so many emotions in the reader – in this case a real dislike of Violet! I recommend this book as not only part of a well written series, but also an enjoyable book in its own right.