The Mother’s Day Victory by Rosie Hendry
This is a vivid and sometimes moving novel of women in wartime. Set 1940, this is a book which tells the stories of families and friends making the huge efforts to keep life going on the homefront. Although it is the second book in the series, it works perfectly well as a standalone, which is how I read it. One of the major elements is the danger of internment for those of German birth, even though they have arrived in Britain as refugees. One of the chief benefits of fiction of this nature is to give a human focus to the facts of the past; in this book a young woman called Anna is the face of those who were regarded with suspicion. Other themes include the need to produce food and other basic items locally rather than imported from abroad at great risk. It focuses on the work undertaken by women in so many areas, in the supply of food to the troops and others, dealing with evacuated mothers and children, and growing fruit and vegetables to make rationed food go further. The main characters – Thea, Prue and Anna, are all well drawn along with the fest to the cast of people. Thea’s home and large garden needs a lot of work to grow food and care for livestock to its full potential, but not everyone is able to put in the hours of work. Thea’s sister Prue has concerns about her sons as the war comes closer, as well as recognising the true state of her marriage. This book is a lively story of defiance against the threats of war, a personal albeit fictional account of internment, and much more. I enjoyed it, and am very pleased to have had the opportunity to read and review this novel.
The book opens with Anna, a young woman who has had to flee from Germany, leaving her father behind, after the gradual restrictions placed on Jewish people. She has struggled with the domestic job she had when first arriving in Britain, and though she has enjoyed teaching a boy called Thomas, things have changed and she must move on. Happily she has a good friend who proposes that she goes to to work with Thea, as her nephew Edwin has to fulfil his role elsewhere. She is made welcome by the three women who live in the big house, Thea herself, Hettie her older friend and cook, and Marianne who is a very able dressmaker and mother to baby Emily. Thea’s brother Reuben lives on the estate, and is able to help, but has other commitments. Thus Anna is delighted to discover that she has not only found new friends, but a fulfilling job outdoors in planting and caring for vital vegetables. When she goes into the local village, she has to face some suspicion owing to her foreign origins, but achieves some understanding among the villagers. Anna is sorry not to be teaching, but is happy to be part of a community with worthwhile work. It is fortunate that she has such support, because she will be tested by the country that has offered her sanctuary.
This is a book which covers so much in this eventful period. The dangers of Dunkirk, the fears of invasion, the beginnings of the London Blitz all take their place in this well written novel. There is a lovely link with another enjoyable series from this author, as some of the characters working in London appear in trying circumstances. There is so much research behind this book, but is never allowed to get in the way to the strong narrative. I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys wartime stories, especially of female led communities, and vivid tales of friends and families under pressure.