A Woman’s Courage by S. Block
A book which continues the story of the television series “Keep the Home Fires Burning” this third book in the series provides some sort of resolution for some of the characters who populate the village of Great Paxford. A story of the members of the village Women’s Institute, the people here vividly continue their lives in the shadow of the Second World War which is changing so much. The creator of the series has now settled to developing the parallel and overlapping stories of the various women of the village to great effect. Although this book picks up where the second one left off, it is a fascinating book in its own right, setting out a well written story of the challenges of the time. Gossip, scandal and challenges abound, but also loyalty, romance and hope. It is a very logically constructed book, managing to keep the detailed stories of each family going, overlapping the character’s progress where relevant. It is a compelling read, and it is easy to get involved in characters that are diverse and interesting, living in a small community.
The book opens in June 1941 with Pat in church, struggling to come to terms with recent events which have changed her life. Nervous of appearances, she is aware of the pressure of those who know about her difficult relationship with her husband Bob, and also those who see him as a successful writer and her good fortune to be married to him. In contrast, when Sarah is in church a few days later she feels compelled to read her husband Adam’s letter to the congregation, realizing that everyone is concerned about his absence, missing the village vicar. Frances is continuing to try and think of projects that will make a difference to the village that can be undertaken by the W.I. Members, and meeting raises the problem of clothes being rationed in the near future. Thus a “Fashion on the Ration” scheme is proposed, not another jumble sale but an opportunity to sort through good quality clothes that may be of use to others. In the same way, a sewing group is established to teach and enable people to repair and repurpose clothes. The butcher’s shop, now greatly benefitting from David’s return, is so popular that the family propose to take on the shop next door, but expansion is not without its costs and challenges. Alison is tentative about her new friendship with John, whose appearance in the area has sparked off prejudice in a most unpleasant way. Teresa is struggling to cope with her new situation, and the future seems complicated.
This is a book that effectively reflects how people coped with wartime challenges, both in discovering new strengths and relationships, while being aware of the changes that the war is bringing. Each character is well established in this novel, and the research into the times, clothes, food and other elements is solid and reliable, but never gets in the way of the narrative. This is a book which balances its storylines very well, managing to maintain each character’s particular story well, and there is much to enjoy in this vivid novel, which kept me entertained with its compelling pace. Now a paperback after its ebook release, I recommend it as the successful third book in a well written series.