A Ration Book Victory by Jean Fullerton – a brilliant end to an excellent wartime series

A Ration Book Victory by Jean Fullerton 

This book comes at the end of a brilliant wartime series – but is a success on its own as it features a love story that has existed over decades. Queenie, a redoubtable older woman who has had a big role in many of these books which feature an East End of London family facing the challenges of War, has hinted that all is not all as it seems over the years. The dual timeline in this book tells the story of her great love which began in 1877, but which becomes a sharp focus in the final days of the Second World War. Many members of the family have their moment in the spotlight, as memories of past challenges surface in the face of hope of the end of danger. This wartime series has worked because it is far more than the problems of the blitz, though many of the separations and anxieties are war related. In this book there are lyrical memories of first love, as well as the harsh implications of long held grudges. The setting, in one of the areas most affected by the bombing, is well described as are the clothes worn by the characters. Indeed, one of the characters changes his clothes as almost a symbol of a different lifestyle. This is a book written with real understanding and compassion for lives that are rarely straightforward, and love that defies the rules. I found it a moving and brilliantly written book, with a real understanding of past passions and current concerns, and was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it. 

Unlike the previous novels, which have been firmly pitched in the wartime period, this book begins in the summer of 1877, when five year old Philomena Dooley meets the slightly older Patrick, and her fate seems to be sealed. The scene shifts to London in 1945, when Philomena is known as Queenie, matriarch of the Brogan family, who lives with her only son Jeremiah, his wife Ida, and a selection of their children. Their older children, if not away in the forces, live locally and Jeremiah and Ida are grandparents. The entire family attends the local Catholic church, at least for special occasions, but Queenie is especially regular in her attendance. She is particularly attached to Father Mahon, the now elderly parish priest, and the reader is informed of her situation throughout the novel. Other problems arise,with one son reacting badly to the temptations of another lifestyle, and a daughter desperately longing for a child when her sisters seem to have no problems. There is a lovely description of V.E. night celebrations in London, which prove memorable for all sorts of reasons and are so well written that it really feels as if I was watching it happen. 

I so enjoyed this book as it has such good solid character descriptions, with a few unexpected twists. There has obviously been a huge amount of research behind this and the other novels, yet it is understated and never gets in the way of the narrative. The dialogue, especially from Queenie, is so natural and lively that it really adds to the character and story. This is a remarkable novel for all the best reasons, and a triumphant ending to a wonderful series. 

A Ration Book Daughter by Jean Fullerton – A brave young woman meets challenges during the Second World War

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.    

A Ration Book Childhood by Jean Fullerton – Family life in the London blitz in the 1940s.


This book tells a remarkable story of family life in London’s East End during the Blitz in the Second World War. Rich with characters that come to life on the page, with well described emotions and feelings, this is a memorable novel of the realism which emerges from an author who truly knows the area. The complex family links which affect attitudes over the generation are here explained, even though some emerged in the previous novel in the series, “A Ration Book Christmas”. This is a standalone book in most ways; although it has characters first introduced in the initial book, they are developed and grow in this novel. It is not just about a childhood, though there are several younger characters who find life challenging. There is so much about the adults who have relationships with them, as even small babies have to be protected from the unpredictable enemy action in the streets and houses around them. Life is described in the shelters, the frustrations of rationed food and other goods, the danger of being caught without shelter. Beyond that there are the human crisis associated with every family, as jealousies, recriminations and the need for forgiveness dominate the story. Jean Fullerton’s enormous skill is in handling the characters so they really live, and the reader cannot wait to discover what they will do and how they will cope throughout the time covered by the book. Beginning in October, this is a book which shows the harsh realities and routines of living with war as Christmas, the New Year, and beyond happens. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.


Ida is the mother of a family which includes four adult children who are all involved directly or indirectly through spouses in the war effort. Another child, Billy, has a more complex history, and other babies and children will come to feature in this family saga. The family’s finances depend largely on her husband, Jeremiah, a dealer in scrap whose livelihood is being affected by the emergency war demands. Hoping to branch out into transport work without petrol thanks to the horse, Samson, the return of horse power to central London is an unexpected outcome of petrol shortages. With Queenie, Jeremiah’s mother in residence, life can never be dull as she has her own eccentric and borderline legal activities. She also has ways of dealing with the dislikable Pearl, in a scene which entertains and amuses. At the heart of the story is a tragic betrayal, as a testing time for the family is recalled, and decisions must be made. The danger to both those fighting abroad and seeking to survive at home is well described, and feels real.


I greatly enjoyed both the traumas and challenges faced by Ida, her family and friends, and the revelations of past events. While much is said of family likenesses and the implications for identity, nothing seems too unlikely or unreal. While I have read many novels both contemporary and recalling this period in recent history from various viewpoints, there were still elements of life that I had not previously  appreciated. Satisfying and with humour, this book seems to bring the words and actions of women alive in a difficult period as they dealt with the challenges of daily life. I recommend this as a lively story of families and friends in memorable circumstances.