Victory for the Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell – a slice of wartime life for brave women in 1942

Victory for the Shipyard Girls: Shipyard Girls 5 (The Shipyard ...

Victory for the Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell


This further volume in the Shipyard Girls series featuring women who worked in the shipyards of Sunderland and their friends and families during the Second World War is mainly set in 1942. There are revelations of the women’s lives and loves centred around an area of intense industry, which also provides a target for frequent bombing raids. This is a book of intense emotions as the women’s experiences overlap and centre on the works, especially as Helen, the owner of the shipyard’s granddaughter is working as the manager. As with other series of sagas this book carries the story onwards, but this novel has its own plot, as the characters journey through several months of wartime experience. It also refers back to events that occurred a few decades before, as one character remembers a life changing series of experiences. There is tension as secrets are kept, but also hope in the form of children who symbolise the future as well as the past. Those who are keen to discover what has happened to their favourite characters will find much to interest them in this book, but it also works as a snapshot of the wartime experience of women. 


The book opens with a wedding, as Rosie finally overcomes her reservations and commits herself to Peter. Not that it is an easy situation; a decision he has made means that he will be absent for much of the novel. Still, there are memories made and a new start for both, which will have an effect on others known to them. Bel is now happily married, but is seized by the urge to discover from Pearl the identity and fate of her father, something which Pearl is intent on avoiding at all costs. Gloria is settling into her role as a mother once more, but without her lover she struggles, concerned not only for her own child but also Helen, who she has begun to see in a more sympathetic light. There is  a grievous threat made to many of the group of friends by an embittered woman, a revelation of family secrets that would hurt several people. Gloria and Rosie choose to act to limit the potential threat, but the machinations of Miriam will still affect more than one life. The bounds of friendship will continue to support the women who live through this difficult time but every relationship is severely tested.


This book, like the others in the series, is easy to become engrossed in as the situations of so many overlap and also move in parallel. This is a skilfully written novel which features many concerns of the time which went beyond Sunderland, as the fate of nations was still hanging in the balance. Revell’s usual high standard of characterisation is well demonstrated in this book, as well as her gentle development of plot. The sense of time and place also emerges so well from this book, as everyone feels that they must contribute to the war effort, either on the front line, the building and repairing of ships of war, or the taking care of children to allow others to work. I found this a fascinating book, and am keen to read more in this series. 


I am taking Saturday and Sunday off from posting again this week, but I will be gathering my forces for the following weekends. Reviewing a book a day does mean reading many books, which can be easy in many ways – but I do get distracted. I have even started watching “The Crown” again – and once again been impressed by the acting of the leads. I have nearly finished Downton Abbey again, an as for Poldark… Have you been distracted by any classic series?





Shipyard Girls at War by Nancy Revell – women working together in a tough environment

Shipyard Girls at War

There are many books with the word “Girls” in the title, most of which tell tales of a group of women who joined together to work on the Home Front during the Second World War. This particular saga or novel tells the stories of a group of women, and some of the families, who worked at the shipyards of Sunderland. With air raids on the town and some of the local men joining the army, there would be casualties at home and away. This is a book which takes a fictional look at the difficulties of the work at the yard, being heavy and exposed to the elements. While women did the work, not all of them could physically keep up with the heavy tools and processes. It is the second one in a series, but there is enough in the book to allow the reader to pick up what has occurred before. Rosie is the gang leader, and has a secret double life and a tragic past.  Gloria is a woman who has secrets and challenges that are not confined to wartime pressures. A particular family group is coping with a loss as a soldier is killed in action. The survival of his brother causes problems and at least one household must come to terms with the future. This is a well written book of people who are living in difficult times, and making a difference, not just girls, but determined women.  


Bel is a young women who was married to Teddy, one of the twin sons of Agnes, but she has heard that he has been killed, leaving her a widow with a small daughter. Joe, his surviving brother, is returning injured and will need tending. Bel grew up with Agnes and her family, and still lives in the family home. When Bel’s mother turns up memories are reawakened of her poor treatment of Bel as a child, how she was virtually abandoned and was brought in by Polly, Agnes’ daughter. Polly continues working at the Yard, worrying about her fiance Tommy away in the army. Her workmates are led by Rosie, who has secrets of her own, as she copes with her dubious job as well as the problems of progress at the Yard. She has a particular battle with Helen who is acting manager. She is especially concerned for Hannah, who is struggling to keep up with the work. Meanwhile, Gloria is worried by the problem of her estranged husband and his tendency to violence. Many problems present themselves to the characters, in addition to the dangers of air raids and the actual fighting of a war.


This book tackles head on some problems that were paramount at the time and continue to this day. Domestic violence and the lack of resolution from the law at the time is a significant issue. The question of love after bereavement is a difficulty in many ways. The whole book looks at the way that a community must continue when many men are away, and the need for ships to continue the fight. This is a very readable book which makes the most difficult subjects human, the extra difficulties of the times seen through the eyes of women who are determined to stick together. It has much to say about how physically demanding the work at the shipyards was, and how so many people were determined to fight in any way they could. Not all the characters act in a positive way, or have positive motives for their behaviour, and it is a realistic picture of family and community life. I will definitely look to read other books in this series, and recommend this wartime saga for its appreciation of place and people.   


Yes, I am continuing with the theme of women in mid twentieth century Britain, facing lots of problems with life with many men serving in the military forces and finding a way to keep society going, as they had during the First World War. Have you a favourite book set in the time? Do you enjoy these saga type books?