Blackpool’s Daughter by Maggie Mason
Evacuees in the Second World War often had a challenging time; Clara in this novel suffers more than most. Exiled from a pre invasion Guernsey, she at least escapes from the uncomfortable atmosphere on the island as her single mother, Julia, has fought valiantly to bring her up in the face of slights over her unmarried status. Neatly suggesting that Guernsey was a large village isolated from the mainland for the spread of gossip, the novel speedily carries the reader away from the island as Julia follows her daughter and it is only then that the action begins. This novel exposes the truth of losing people in the chaos of the homefront, when telephones were still relatively rare and the postal system affected by various factors ; that it was possible for people to lose touch with loved ones. While this book has several moments of terror and sudden loss, it also features great love and the sense of family that probably did overcome much in communities affected by war in so many ways. It shows how women had to endure separation from loved ones, new ways of life which were frequently hard, the reality of pregnancy without the presence of fathers and so many other dangers; this is not a book of bombing and blitz but of the harsh realities of life in supposedly safe areas. I really appreciated the truth of the characters in this novel, as they seek ways to live in challenging times. An effortlessly readable novel, it kept me reading into the small hours as I literally could not wait to discover what became of people I had been introduced to by this talented author. I was very glad to be given the opportunity to read and review this book as part of the tour.
Clara is only thirteen when she travels alone to England and safety from the imminent invasion. An overwhelmed system sees her sent to Blackpool and the cruelty over Miss Brandon who runs a shop. While she makes one or two friends who will help her to cope, she also learns quickly that it is difficult to know who to trust in a Blackpool where secret forces control daily life and rule by fear. Meanwhile thanks to the generosity of a older islander, Julia buys the last place on the final evacuation boat from the island, and rushes to London to reclaim her daughter. She is also reconciled with a friend, Rhoda, but the two women discover that their daughters have been sent from London to an unknown town. Julia and Rhoda enlist as land girls in order to travel north in the hope of tracking the girls, but country life brings its own temptations and terrors as a jealous wife seeks revenge. Meanwhile Clara becomes entrapped by a series of circumstances and must show enormous courage to survive and thrive.
This is a book with a complex plot in some ways, as human experience is rarely uncomplicated, and there are times when the drama edges towards the extreme. However, the undeniable strength of the characters always saves the narrative, and I relished the way that friends and minor characters helped save the day, even when all seemed lost. I liked the way that Daisy continued to help, and this book places great emphasis on the power of relationships forged in adversity. Read this book for the characters, the survival of love, and the hope of a better and fulfilled life which survives may challenges.
We have just returned from seeing the film “Red Joan”, which was excellent. It featured some excellent shots of Cambridge, including a college tower that I once fell down when descending the stairs….Judi Dench was predictably very good, but we really enjoyed the flashbacks ( very substantial) to the 1940s which were beautifully acted and filmed. A really good film, and highly recommended. Now to find a copy of the book on which it is based, somewhere upstairs…