Christmas with the Spitfire Girls by Jenny Holmes – a powerful story of women pilots in the lead up to Christmas, 1944.

Christmas with the Spitfire Girls: A heartwarming and festive wartime  story: Holmes, Jenny: 9780552177061: Books

Christmas with the Spitfire Girls by Jenny Holmes 

This is another well written novel featuring the women of the Air Transport Auxiliary on an airfield in Yorkshire during the Second World War. This third novel in the series is set in November 1944, as hopes are high for the end of the war and several of the characters are looking forward to Christmas. Although this is a book in the series, I feel confident that it could be enjoyed as a standalone novel, as the characters are introduced and some of the backstory is included as necessary. In this novel three of the young women are featured: Bobbie, Viv and Mary. A new pilot is introduced, the highly experienced and well known First Officer Peggy Ibbotson, who arrives to fly planes even though she has been training pilots. This book, like the earlier novels in the series, is excellent on the risks that the women face, as transporting the planes involves flying without radios, in planes that often need repair, at the mercy of weather and changing local conditions. It is also known that sometimes enemy planes attack the transport pilots, which makes them extremely vulnerable. This is a very tense novel with twists and turns both on the ground and in the air. I found it an immensely fascinating novel, full of human interest  in terms of the perceived dangers and hints of romance and intrigue. 

Bobbie has moved on from the traumas of the past, and is now a senior officer. While she enjoys flying, like the other girls she has an special affection for the well designed Spitfire. She is keen to help organise a Christmas event, a dance, despite the tricky moments she endures at the dance that occurs at the start of the book. She admits to being very fond of Ray, who runs a local racehorse stables. Not that the course of their relationship will run smoothly; decisions will have to be made. Mary is deeply in love with Cameron, and commitment may well be demanded. However, she has other concerns, as she worries about her younger brother who is fighting abroad. Viv, the lively, brave and talented Canadian pilot, is not so committed to a man, but is completely determined to ensure that the Christmas celebrations proceed as planned. Meanwhile, the pilots are flying planes against a background of their own fears, especially as some of their loved ones are flying actual combat missions. As relationships can be made more tense by fear, there are also pressures from family and friends. 

This is a book which demands to be read once started, as each of the characters is drawn in a consistent manner as the overall story develops.  The research into what it feels like to fly a variety of planes in several different conditions is understated but effective. The emotional pressures on the women and those whom they love is well described, especially in the community of the airfield with the various ground crew and other ranks who are all dedicated to getting the maximum number of planes in the air to help the war effort. This is a powerful book on the bravery of the women and men connected with the airfield, the technical requirements of flying and the desperate hope that the war will soon be over before more losses must be faced. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the vivid depiction of wartime conditions, the lives of women in wartime, and the special circumstances of the final months of the war.   

The Spitfire Girls Fly for Victory by Jenny Holmes – four women flying planes for war in an enthralling novel

The Spitfire Girls Fly for Victory (Paperback)

The Spitfire Girls Fly for Victory by Jenny Holmes

The Air Transport Auxiliary – the Atta girls amongst them – was a group of pilots who took enormous risks to deliver planes in Britain during the Second World War. This second novel featuring a group of these young women in the series by Jenny Holmes, titled for the most exciting and impressive of the planes they flew. I am confident that this book could be enjoyed as a stand alone novel as the characters develop within the story, and the plot stands largely alone. Three main characters, Jean Thorton, Bobbie Fraser and Mary Holland all featured in the first novel, and in this book they are all flying a variety of planes in different, often challenging circumstances. They also have lives that are really interesting, as romance or even just involvement have their moments. A new character, Viv Robertson, arrives to upset many apple carts; with her Canadian background and Hollywood experiences she is a very different, determined young woman. 

One of the most impressive things about this book is the immense amount of research that goes into it on a technical level, as the women fly very different types of planes during the novel, each with their own advantages and challenges. So not only do the Spitfires, which are lovingly described, feature, but also the older planes or “crates” which may well have some definite dangers.  This is not a textbook of their controls, fuel capacity and way they should have performed, but how they felt to fly, especially in specific conditions. The routes that the women take, which all offer  their own challenges, are well described, as the incidents which may affect each fight. Not that this is an overly technical read; the women are given lives and emotions outside their duties, living in a large house with the owners appearing and those that actually work on the planes. Each character is treated with understanding, and develops throughout the narrative.

The book opens in March 1944, with the newly married Jean helping Mary to make a dress to go and visit her “Sweetheart” wearing, as Mary is nervous of making her way to meet the man that she loves. Jean and her new husband are eager to find their own house away from the official accommodation so they can be together, and the cottage comes with a lot of work. Bobbie, on the other hand,has strong memories of a sort of relationship which was disastrous, so is more hesitant about getting involved with another man. Into their established world arrives with a squeal of wheels Viv, with her borrowed sports car and her amazing confidence which partly covers her desperation to fly the planes and help in the war effort. As the book proceeds, two young men appear on the scene who challenge two of the women to rethink their attitudes to those who own the house and a local racehorse stables. When a mysterious young woman is introduced into their midst she has quite an effect on the others in the house.

This is a totally absorbing book which recounts vividly fictional accounts of the women who made a vital contribution to the war effort in delivering planes to the correct airfields. It is frank about the cost to the women who were part of the Atta ranks, the risks they ran, the way they had to have relationships affected by war. Informative but never dry, this really brings the women alive as they flew planes in circumstances their male counterparts would perhaps not risk. Each portrait is very three dimensional, with lots of depth, and altogether this is a very enthralling book.   

The Spitfire Girls by Jenny Holmes – a novel of some women of the Air Transport Auxiliary

The Spitfire Girls


This is a novel of some of the women of the Air Transport Auxiliary, A group of talented pilots who spent much of the Second World War transporting airplanes. They did not fly in battle, or just deliver new planes, but also those whose airworthiness was of a doubtful nature to be repaired.These women were not fair weather aviators; they had to fly planes as needed even when conditions were not perfect and enemy aircraft were present. While there is much written in non fiction about them, this is a novel which shows the fictional world of three characters who fly with the service, and one woman who would desperately like to despite the danger. This is a powerful story of love and devotion to duty, but also of the very real feelings of the women involved. These brave women were young, and sometimes made mistakes, but essentially they were fixated on flying craft without some of the cover that male pilots had during battles. This novel is the first in a series of books featuring the women, and men, who were responsible for getting the aircraft to the correct place to enable a vitally important element of the war to be fought.


The three pilots that fly the aircraft at the start of the novel have all had opportunities denied to many people, let alone women, in the 1930s. Planes were far more rare and relatively expensive to fly. In the First World War impossibly fragile planes had flown over the trenches to see the lie of the land, and the technology had advanced to provide planes which could be used for aerial combat. Angela, glamorous and wealthy, whose family owned woollen mills, had wanted to fly and could afford to. She blossomed in the ATA, flying bravely and well. It is known that she has been chosen to be the model on the ATA recruiting poster, and is well known on the base in Yorkshire in September 1943 as the novel begins. Her friend Bobbie is also well known as a pilot with ambitions, who had first learnt to fly on her father’s own plane in Scotland. She is however naive and when she becomes the object of interest to at least one male pilot, she is unsure how to cope despite her bravery. The third pilot, Jean, had a less easy path to flying. Having gained a scholarship to grammar school, she has had to work really hard to get the opportunity to fly, and makes the most of her chance by being the most able and courageous of the women pilots. Mary, meanwhile, is a driver, who is nonetheless brave and dedicated to getting personnel to the right place, even when in shock and physically affected by the dangers of the bombing which to the area was subject. Her friend Stan pushes her to apply for training, but she knows that women from her background are fighting a huge battle to get behind the controls of a plane under any circumstances, let alone when their importance to the country’s fate was so acute. 


This novel gives an excellent account of both the excitement and dangers of flying planes at this time. It shows that it was not only a matter of ability, but also background and opportunity. The tension is not always confined to being in the skies; the male pilots and ground staff have their own agendas on occasions, even feeling jealous of the women and their abilities. This novel is a well written look at the real humanity, the romances and intrigues of the women and those around them who flew planes in the most challenging of circumstances. It is an engaging and even gripping read, which more than kept my interest and kept me reading. I recommend this as a real book of the humanity and excitement of aviation in the Second World War. 


I picked this book up a while ago, and enjoyed it greatly. I noticed the the next in the series “The Spitfire Girls Fly to Victory” had been published, and I have happily managed to get a copy! I also see there is a Christmas one to come, so something to look forward to over the next few months.

A Christmas Wish for the Land Girls by Jenny Holmes- more than a Christmas book

Image result for A christmas wish for the land girls holmes

This novel, apparently a wartime saga about a group of girls working and living together, is taken a step further by this exciting and dramatic plot. A group of Land Girls has already been set up, with their romances, hard work and fearsome situations, living in and near a small town, in previous novels. In this book the land girls become dispersed, with two members moving to a distant village and farms which are indeterminate distances away from habitation. New characters are added which show different sides of the wartime experience. While there are shortages of some basics, absent friends and other elements of the wartime experience, this is not a war novel as such, but there is much to involve a reader with an interest in the period.

Joyce is one of the strongest characters in the previous novels, as she is a sensible and sympathetic land girl, working on farms where she has much experience and knowledge. Her romantic relationship does not feature heavily in this book, but her security allows her to understand and help others. She chooses to go further afield, to a farm where the farmer is taciturn and has a much younger, silent wife. Brenda also continues to be the most mobile land girl, for while she has found an isolated farm with a farmer and his spoilt daughter she also manages to retain and use her trusty motor bike. The worse tragedy happens involving a friend, and she can only remain steadfast in the face of sorrow. The two girls become involved in the life of the very small village, with a charming young vet and others. There is a rather stern Vicar, who is housing an evacuee with problems. One of the new characters introduced is Evelyn, a worker with the trees and countryside around. As with many of these books, dramatic events punctuate the book, with a rather exciting climax.

This is a genuinely engaging book, which keeps the reader thoroughly involved and intrigued. This type of book depends on the strength of the characters, and this book succeeds apparently effortlessly in making the reader feel invested in the people in this story. The characters are varied, with all their faults and strengths well described, and feel very human. Even the minor characters on the edge of the narrative have their interest and value, from their reactions to events and their development. The plot is simple, where even minor events assume great significance as they affect people that the reader feels genuine interest and involvement with throughout the book. Other characters from the previous novels make their entrances, especially as they coincide with Joyce and Brenda. Social events, emergencies and upheavals see people discovering much about other people, not always positive traits, but also some great strengths. Despite the title it is certainly about far more than the immediate Christmas season being more about a period of several months in local lives. This allows the situations and characters to really develop, and it is certainly not limited to a sentimental season.  I enjoyed this book immensely, even the bleak parts, and I recommend it as a good, fairly escapist read.

As Christmas Eve is fast approaching, I have decided to keep posting reviews over the holiday period. This may be because I am addicted, or maybe it is because I know that despite the adverts and tv specials, not everyone has a Christmas filled with family and friends. Having endured some pretty horrible Christmas seasons I know that it sometimes good to be distracted, even if you cannot immediately buy the books (though with the power of the internet…) that I review or check your library for borrowing possibilities. So, do have a good Christmas wherever you are, whatever you wish for, and however you spend it!

Wedding Bells for Land Girls by Jenny Holmes – An engaging novel set in Wartime Britain

Image result for Wedding Bells for Land Girls Holmes

Melodrama, varied characters, rural life and a wartime setting all make this book a great immersive read. While being presented as a book featuring a group of girls, there are some satisfying aspects of a book that is truly page turning for many readers. Land girls all working in farms and for widely differing landowners have different experiences, but all are subject to the romance and drama of living away from home, often for the first time. Exactly how much difference the setting of war in 1942 makes to emotions is as frequently with such novels, and indeed real life, made more intense. Younger men are on leave from various military forces; the urge to join up or be conscripted affects many lives. Holmes handles the frustrations, fears and drama of lives lived on the edge well, and while there are certain points at which credulity may be stretched a little, it is all controlled well and the essential characteristics of each character is consistent.

This was the first book I have read in this series, so I was grateful that there is a list of characters at the beginning of this book. It opens with a wedding, which is a useful device for introducing many of the characters and their relationships to each other. We also see them behaving in the ways which will emerge through the novel, with slightly unsure Grace marring her long term love, Bill. Brenda is a down to earth and strong character who roars around on a motorbike even when en route to a wedding, where new comer Doreen is seen as a big character always attracting attention. Joyce is shown as a concerned figure in looking after the newer girls, while being attracted to the troubled Edgar. There is some black marketing by a wholly bad character, and it is this element of the novel which seems a little too extreme in what is otherwise a well balanced narrative. The older people in the village are a little easily dismissed; I got a little confused between some of the older women as to who was acting as manager of the Land Girl’s Hostel. I did think that the relationship between Grace and her new mother in law was well described. The actual work undertaken by the Girls sounds accurately established, and there are good sketches of the large horse who undertook a lot of work when there were fewer tractors. The somewhat fierce sister was convincing, and many of the situations are at least resolved by the rather fast ending.

Overall I enjoyed this book, as it had plenty of interest and was truly difficult to put down. While one or two elements tipped over into the unlikely, the overall emotionally charged situation is well handled. The impending departure of some of the men into various military organisations and the urge to make the most of time remaining was very well realised. There is no wailing about individual plights, and I found the action kept moving really well. This is an engaging read, full of action and excellent characters, and I will be searching out the next book soon.

This is yet another type of book that I have found recently. I am reviewing a pop star autobiography tomorrow, and I am looking at different books as picked up in Meadowhall last Friday. My new Waterstones card has finally been activated, so I was able to get a copy of Pat Barker’s “Silence of the Girls”. I also found William Boyd’s “Love is Blind” and Sarah Perry’s  “Melmoth”. Having recently embarked on “The Corset” by Laura Purcell, I have some serious reading to do!