A World of Trouble by Jacky Renouf – The Island of Guernsey in the Second World War for Marion, Stella and Rachel

A World of Trouble – Fateful Decisions (English Edition) eBook: Renouf,  Jacky: Amazon.de: Kindle Store
A World of Trouble by Jacky Renouf

1940, Guernsey, and for three young women some fateful decisions to be made that will have long reaching effects. Marion, Stella and Rachel are young women who have grown up on the island, but as the threat from the German forces increases from across the Channel, they must make a series of choices that may threaten themselves or their families. This is a precisely written novel which uses the three female lead characters to explore some of the pressures on people on the island at the time. An island which came to be invaded by a large number of soldiers suffered immense pressures, especially as so many of the younger people left, and many of the children were evacuated at the last minute. Despite the fact that a lot of foodstuffs were grown on the island, there were real shortages of the basics when supplies did not get over from occupied France to support the troops. This is a book that manages to look at not only those who were one of the Channel Islands, but also how this small piece of Britain was viewed from the mainland as the War progressed. At a nearly impossible time for women on the edge of life, love and more, this is a book full of insight which goes beyond simple choices as subtle compromise and complexity must be exercised in order to survive. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book. 

At the start of the book it is perhaps difficult to believe that the Germans will soon arrive in force and present a real threat to daily life on the island. Nevertheless it is decided at the last minute to send the school age children to the British mainland, including David, Stella’s younger brother. Her parents, who run the island’s newspaper, decide that Stella would be safer off the island, and arrange for her to leave with a class of children and go to Cambridge where a neighbour’s son is working. The journey is uncomfortable and dangerous, and the mainland is reeling from bombing. Stella must find her feet in a strange place without those who she loves. Rachel is a nurse in the local hospital, engaged to be married to John, but her parents are reluctant to let her go abroad to be closer to him. Her father in particular is aggrieved at the Germans, and she worries about him getting into trouble. Her work at the hospital, as it is forced to move to an older site, exposes the shortages of the basic supplies it needs to function as different illnesses and needs emerge among the civilian population. She is against talking to the German soldiers on any level, but there is a huge variation in the attitudes of those who have found themselves sharing the island. Marion is struggling with her difficult mother, but finds an alternative world in the local theatre groups. She comes to the attention of a German officer, and must make decisions that may lead to trouble.

This is a book which is based on solid research, a knowledge of events on the island and a real feel for what people went through, and the choices that they had to make. The shortages of food and other basics is well documented, but the islanders’ reactions to the forced workers who were savagely treated is a fascinating aspect of the book. This book also questions the attitude of the wartime government in London to the people on the island.  I found this to be a fascinating book which deals broadly with the most difficult part of the twentieth century for the Channel Islands, and the specific problems faced by the young women of the islands as they tried to survive innumerable challenges.  

Stick a Flag in It by Arran Lomas – a bizarre and vivid history of Britain and beyond

Stick a Flag in It by Arran Lomas

A history book with all the amazing, bizarre and downright strange bits left in, this book is an immensely readable collection of many of the memorable tales- and some not so memorable- of (mainly) British history. For those wary of dates, there are some, but certainly not so many as to cause grief. There are no footnotes either, so some of the extraordinary assertions here are not substantiated by chapter and verse, but I suspect that serious historians into a particular element of the history will seek elsewhere for their detailed fix of information. There is, however, a lengthy index at the end of the book should you wish to look up such burning topics as “Lovelace, Ada” or “humours, theory of” . Though not a feminist interpretation of history (though there are details of women’s lowly status in such times as the Victorian era), this is an attractive, if sometimes shocking, scurry through history which permits frequent diversions to indulge what I imagine to be the author’s own interests. There are a few innuendos and details which would mean that this book is not for those easily taken aback by comments, but this is an ideal book for those wishing to travel through “1,000 Years of bizarre history from Britain and beyond”.  I was intrigued and interested to have the opportunity to read and review this substantial book.

Beginning with that lynchpin of British history, 1066 and the battle of Hastings, Lomas tells of how Harold put up quite the fight, and how even after the battle was won, William had to assert his authority in many ways. Throughout this book it is possible to see how Lomas revels in an interesting death, and the fate of a corpse in pre refrigerated times. Not that this is a book solely concerned with kings and rulers; Lomas demonstrates that he can handle the factors behind Britain’s victories over France in medieval battles in the form of every level of the populace being highly trained in the use of the longbow which thus became the first weapon of mass destruction. He does not hold back in condemning kings as bad or criminally awful at being king, such as John or Henry VI, and gives cogent reasons why they were (to quote another popular history book) “a bad thing”. He explains why Margaret Beaufort was the ultimate single mother, and various battle disasters which led to huge loss of life on various battlefields. While this is mainly a straightforward run through British history, there are also diversions into chapters such as “A Man Carries a Pineapple Around Town” and “Some Yorkshiremen Crash the Economy from a Pub”. There are comparisons between the cost and complications of divorce compared with the possible benefits of selling a wife with examples. 

This is in some ways a very personal view of history, covering the progress of Byron’s exploits and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. Idiosyncratic in every way, there were times when the assertions in this book did give me pause, and one or two allusions to twenty first century life were a little strained. Nevertheless this is an easy to read and enjoy book which certainly presents a lively and vivid introduction to many aspects of history which may well inspire further investigation. There are certainly adventures here recorded with real energy and aplomb. It offers a traditional view of the growth of the British Empire, but also points out how it extended to an undreamed of size and impact, and its contribution if not introduction to the concept of liberty. This is a successful book in that it argues for a simple but effective view of British history and some of its impact on the world, leading up to the early twentieth century. From William the Conqueror to Shackleton, with a “Select Bibliography” and due acknowledgement to popular historians of the twenty first century, this is a worthwhile and useful book of history via unexpected routes.     

Shades of Deception by Jacqueline Jacques – An Archie Price Edwardian Mystery and more

Shades of Deception by Jacqueline Jacques

Archie Price is an artist who paints portraits in a new style for the tastes of 1903. This is the third book in the Archie Price Edwardian Mystery series, but the first one I have read, and I soon caught up on what was happening to whom. Archie has got an amazing memory for faces, and the ability to reproduce those memories onto paper. This is a mystery concerning Archie and his stepdaughter Clara, Polly and others as they try to discover what happened to several missing girls. Archie’s natural curiosity is aroused by the discovery of a body, and his concern for the young women who seem to be vulnerable to unknown threats. This is an extremely involving book which is written with a great deal of energy and which manages to pack a lot into a book which not only maintains the tension but also gives a real insight into life in the early twentieth century. Archie turns out to be  likable and fallible character, with strong emotions as well as useful skills. I greatly enjoyed reading about him and his family and friends, as well the situations he finds himself in. The setting and background of independent women with significant interests in the suffrage movement are obvious elements of this book, but also the greater problems of women in a society where they have little choice. Archie is frightened for Clara, but also frustrated by the idea of women being the possessions of their fathers then their husbands, to be used and abused in the cause of personal profit. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this fascinating book. 

The book opens with a short prologue in which a young gardener is seen burying something, before an earlier memory of his great but forbidden love. Archie and Polly, a talented photographer, are enjoying a day out with Clara and her friends. When they investigate her shrieking they discover that Clara and the others have found the remnants of a body, with flesh and fragments of clothes hanging off in the water. It proves impossible to identify the young woman as the body has been in the water for some time. Clara is also worried about her friend Lillian who has disappeared despite her ambitions to be an Olympic swimmer. Archie and his friend, police sergeant Frank Tyrell, become involved in the search for the identity of the dead woman, as well as investigating a spiritualist family. On a personal level he is making no progress in his relationship with Polly since the tragic death of his wife Lizie, Clara’s mother, and the latter must live with Lizzie’s parents. He makes a slim living from his portrait painting which attracts some commissions, as well as the attention of Miss Sophie Hudson who is eager to learn painting from him, and possibly more. As Archie has to cope with more than one tragedy and challenge, everyone gets involved in tracking down the truth about the disappearances and several other crimes.

I found this a totally absorbing book with a consistent and well established historical setting. The characters are very attractive with their backstories as well as present actions and attributes. Archie is resourceful and curious, and in combination with others becomes quite a force for good. I found it a brilliant standalone book, but I am keen to read others in the series, and discover more about Archie, Frank and the strong minded women who make such a difference.  

Odd Bird by Lee Farnsworth – Simon discovers that human behaviour is not always the same as the birds’..

Lee Farnsworth on Writing 'Odd Bird' - Farrago Books
Odd Bird by Lee Farnsworth
 
Being an expert on the mating behaviour of birds does not mean that human behaviour is any easier to understand; in the case of Dr Simon Selwood it makes it slightly more difficult, especially when assessing potential “pair bonds” with women. An academic who frequently processes information about life in a different way is the subject of a funny novel about the largely hapless Simon who is obsessed with the behaviour of birds, and fortunately is known and respected for it. He is also the despair of his highly amusing and noisily clever friend Phil, who tries to help him with life in general and relationships in particular in inventive and unusual ways. Featuring such set pieces as a dinner party set up to matchmake couples and a blues festival, this very funny book is narrated by Simon as he tries to steer his way between women and a ground breaking study of pied flycatchers, a celebrity book tour and much else. He peppers his story with frequent references to birds’ behaviour and giving the latin name for the bird mentioned. As his bewilderment is explored there are puns on the theme of women’s names, drinking games with Phil and the broken English found on the multinational study in Sweden into the apparently fascinating pied flycatchers.  I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this funny contemporary novel which delves into much about an academic with problems.

The book begins with Simon and Phil in the pub, discussing the recent breakdown of Simon’s  only serious romantic relationship. “Claire and I dissolved our pair – bond” Simon tells Phil, only to be subjected to the Swan Song, where he has to explain the situation within the length of a music track uninterrupted by questions. Phil indulges in a certain amount of teasing, but undoubtedly believes that he has Simon’s best interests at heart. Pippa is a colleague of Simon’s who he sees as a noisy giggler but also who insists that he comes to a dinner party where he spots the very attractive Kim. He does everything to attract her attention, including a blues festival to which he invites Phil. It seems as if she is not that keen on birds or indeed Simon, and he is left to make up puns around her name such “Kimpatient”, despite his intensive research. Developments occur, and Simon discovers that there is much to be learnt from the behaviour of many species.

This is a very entertaining book which is easy to enjoy. There is much to discover about birds as the narrative proceeds; Simon has much to learn about human behaviour. I liked the characters of Phil and his partner Cammie, as Simon says “Society owes her a great debt”. This is a well written contemporary novel of life, love and birds, full of insights into London life and academic investigation. In some senses this is a light read, but also includes a fascinating story of life for those who see life a little differently.  I recommend it as a good read for anyone interested in contemporary relationships.     

This green and pleasant land by Ayisha Malik

What does it mean to be English? What does it take to divide a village? How do you build a mosque in a village? These are only a few of the many questions which beset Bilal Hasham as he considers fulfilling his mother’s dying wish to build a mosque in the small village of Babel’s End, while coping with several family crises and his own thoughts about life and death. A contemporary drama comedy in which a small village discovers where its loyalties lie in relation to a friendly family who suddenly become objects of suspicion. Not that everything was exactly peaceful in the village before the crisis;  “Tom’s bush” is overgrowing the road, the vicar thinks of his sermons while on a treadmill, and the local group of young men have been causing trouble with tragic results.  

This is a touching and engaging story of women with strong views, men living with confusion, and some younger people who struggle. I found it a lovely read with some brilliant characters, including the bewildered Bilal, the lovely Khala or Auntie that comes to live with the family, and the strident Shelley. It is beautifully plotted with twists and turns that work so well as emerging from the characters. The idea of building a mosque in the village really sorts out the people of the village, even between married couples, and the book really flows well navigating between deep emotions and near farce. As language, culture and feelings emerge in this effective book, I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book. 

The book begins with the death of Sakeen, as she considers her life and knows that after her husband left her she had to learn to understand. After her death, Bilal returns to his village where he realises “Even now, years after moving to the village, the absurdity of its trials didn’t cease to surprise Bilal.” Sure enough there are those, led by Shelley in her dominating way, who are creating a fuss about an overgrown bush. When Bilal timidly suggests his idea of building a mosque, strong emotions are released. Mariam, his wife, was another woman abandoned soon after marriage, also leaving her with a son who becomes Bilal’s stepson. She is insecure and seeks help from self help videos, especially when her ex husband reappears on the scene. Rukhsana is the hapless aunt who lost a much loved husband and has since lived with Sakeen, now having moved to Babel’s End, but who discovers that she cannot speak enough English to get on with the villages, but strikes up an unusual friendship with an unlikely individual. Richard is the vicar, but has many inner debates about faith, about helping sort out the village’s disputes and his relationship with Alice. 

I really enjoyed this book as it represents a picture of life in a village where there is a lot going on, and a person in the shape of Bilal who is struggling to make sense of a bewildering set of circumstances. It deals with some big questions of life, faith and the nature of love, but also fits in some jokes and well observed complex characters. It could be seen as a light read on some levels, but it also includes some deeply affecting moments as individuals try to discover what is truly important for them. I recommend this skillfully written and enjoyable book for its characters and the situations that they find themselves in as offering a view of contemporary life.     

In Black and White by Alexandra Wilson – Race, class and gender in a broken justice system

In Black and White by Alexandra Wilson

 

Being mixed race, female and young defies the expectations for being a barrister, even in 2020. Not that it is an easy process to get to that level, especially when, like Alexandra Wilson, that woman grows up in Essex. This is the “Story of Race and Class in a broken Justice System”, and it is a searingly honest account of the inspiration behind an ambition that resulted from a tragedy. Wilson wanted to be a barrister in a system that is extra difficult for a woman to enter, especially if they come from a non traditional background. Beyond her remarkable achievements there is much to be learnt from this book about those she seeks to represent. Many are fighting the odds of lives that have put them in the courts, or are victims of circumstances beyond their control. Wilson answers the sophisticated question of defending the “guilty” with many explanations, including the fact that some defendants have been consistently let down by the system and being in court is the wrong solution for them. 

 

This is an important book as it depicts in a meaningful way the problems faced by those who work in the legal system if they do not conform to the white, middle class male expectation. Using relevant surveys and studies as well as anecdotal evidence Wilson has compiled a convincing picture of how women apply to be barristers but rarely ascend to the highest level of QC. It is also extremely strong on how a black woman is rarely assumed to be a lawyer, and is regularly assumed to be a client. This book uses footnotes sparingly but well to back up assertions made beyond personal experience; this is a carefully constructed book that I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review. 

 

Wilson dates her ambition to be a barrister and challenge the system from within to the murder of her teenage friend Ayo who was attacked for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Descended from members of the Windrush community on one side, her supportive family ensure that she has the opportunities to enter for scholarships and other opportunities to become a pupil then full junior barrister at a young age. This book is an excellent account of how legal training works, with the challenges and sheer persistence needed to survive and thrive in a system which does not encourage her. Members of her family can contribute their own experiences of assumptions made because of their ethnic background. As Wilson begins work she encounters people let down by the care system, the social system and the courts. She meets parents struggling to maintain contact with their children, and people who have mental health problems being treated poorly. She also encounters those who work the system to their own dubious advantage. Most significantly she learns to cope with the continual pressure that she endures for her background, even her Essex accent,  and comes to realise that she is someone that many can relate to, look to for help, and someone who can make a difference.

 

This is a very well written non fiction book that flows well and never gets bogged down in detail or legal obscurity. It is a very readable book full of real humanity and careful explanation of the necessary background. It is an admirable achievement which really sets out what it actually feels like to work in a challenging environment and some of the deficiencies of a system which affects real people in so many ways.   

The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henley – a contemporary romance with a real edge

 

On one level this is a love story, the sort of romance that is very effective and emotional. On another level it is a surprising story with many twists and turns which asks some serious questions about the nature of life and love. Anna loves Adam, and he loves her, but something has come between them that seems to block their relationship. This novel shows amazing levels of empathy, helped by the main characters each taking a turn to describe their emotions and reactions to the same events. Their voices are well developed, consistent and effective. This is a contemporary reflection on a relationship which has real bite, added to by descriptions of settings and the small domestic details that make it seem real. There are many assumptions and many diversions in this book; it is far from a straightforward romance and all the stronger for it. I was completely drawn into this book and elements of the story remain with me. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.

 

The book opens with a Prologue which sums up the novel with the line”This is not a typical love story, but it’s our love story. Mine and Adam’s.” Chapter One describes how Anna journeyed with her best friend Nell to a resort to take up what would have been her honeymoon. A break up just before her wedding has left her bewildered and hurt, not yet realising how emotionally hurtful her fiance had been. Despite being at her lowest point, she meets and is instantly attracted to Adam, and he is totally smitten with the young woman he mentally names “Star”. They spend every moment together, but at the end of the holiday they must make a decision, especially as Adam must make a huge sacrifice. At the end of each chapter there is a cliffhanger, as a phone call, a mysterious circumstance or a significant event pushes the narrative to an exciting and sometimes deceptive moment. There is suspense throughout this book, which gets more intense as it heads towards its climax. The small touches make this a vivid relationship, as lapses in behaviour towards each other, lack of communication and disappointments affect how Anna and Adam feel about each other. The setting is convincing as their friends and colleagues are around them to act as sounding boards. 

 

This book confronts the questions of a relationship in a whole new way, posing significant points of the importance of connection in whole new ways. Difficult to predict but consistently plotted and planned, there are elements of fantasy in this book which removes it from the straightforward and predictable. It is enjoyable and challenging, and both Adam and Anna are endearing characters in many ways. I found this a very readable book and was reluctant to put it down until the next question was answered and the next stage negotiated. Amelia Henley has undoubtedly succeeded in creating a flowing story which captures the readers imagination and interest,creating sympathy and an emotional response. I recommend this book for those who enjoy contemporary romance with a real edge.  

Hetty’s Farmhouse Bakery by Cathy Bramley – a Cumbrian woman wonders if her pies may be her future

Hetty's Farmhouse Bakery: Amazon.co.uk: Bramley, Cathy: 9780552173940: Books

Hetty’s Farmhouse Bakery by Cathy Bramley

 

Hetty is a farmer’s wife, a mum to Poppy, and will bake pies for every good cause in the area. However, when Poppy is asked which woman she admires, it is her aunt Naomi she names, and Hetty begins to think that she wants an independent role, not just to back up her busy husband. While she loves her husband Dan he is completely wrapped up in the family farm that he inherited unexpectedly early before he could follow his dream of training as a vet. She gets on extremely well with her sister in law who runs a farm shop, her mother in law who lives locally, and her life long best friend Anna, single mother and school nurse. 

 

This is a novel of a woman who realises that she wants to establish something for herself, her own business, a new start surrounded by those whom she loves. Set in the beautiful hills of Cumbia, this is a book which establishes a sense of a lovely if remote place, where the community is close and gossip spreads. It looks at the life of contemporary farmers who diversify into other ventures to survive. It examines long term relationships and friendships, old and new romance, and new opportunities. Hetty tells the story from her own point of view, and Cathy Bramley is so skilled at creating a voice of a lively and sometimes confused woman. Hetty’s particular talent is making free form pies with delicious short crust pastry, and it is this skill which she believes she can use to establish her own business, and much of the novel describes how she tries to do so in the face of unforeseeable difficulties. With funny dialogue and some moving moments, this is an engaging and endearing book.

 

The book begins with Hetty meeting Anna at the parents evening for their respective children. Bart, Anna’s son, is a match for Poppy who has a cheeky sense of humour, whereas Hetty’s nerves and style is to blurt out what she is thinking, much to the embarrassment of her offspring. Rusty, Hetty’s much loved and elderly dog is ill, and the situation makes Hetty reassess her daily life. When Naomi secretly enters Hetty’s pies for a competition for best Cumbrian foods, it makes Hetty wonder if she could do more to establish the sale of her pies through different outlets and create a business. As she receives an exciting invitation it creates tensions with her husband, and begins to make her reconsider past loyalties.

 

This book can be seen as quite a light read on one level, with a family and friends at its heart. Yet it also has a lot to say about the role of women within a community and a marriage. Hetty’s situation is not uncommon in contemporary life, with a long time relationship which has its challenges and secrets. I found it really enjoyable and difficult to put down, as I became so involved with Hetty’s discoveries and decisions.The dialogue is lively and realistic, funny and endearing. This is an entertaining book which I really recommend to anyone who enjoys a book with a light story with deeper themes.

 

 Anyone who reads this blog regularly will realise that I enjoy a variety of books, and the difference between this book and yesterday’s sizable novel of much of John Ruskin’s life is considerable! 

Unto This Last by Rebecca Lipkin – an incredible novel of the complexity of Ruskin’s life and great love

 

John Ruskin was the celebrity art critic, writer and thinker of the Victorian age. This immense book traces the great love of his life, a much younger woman, Rose La Touche, in a style of leisurely description and enormous depth suitable to the Victorian era.  Rebecca Lipkin has made a tremendous effort to write a book which conveys something of the many aspects of Ruskin’s interests and talents, being able to  hold the interest of dozens of people in a lecture but struggling to cope with everyday relationships. This is a big book in every sense, as Lipkin describes a man struggling with his feelings for a young woman in enormous detail. It also contains descriptions of the many places in Britain and Europe where Ruskin stayed during his projects, such as preserving records of the buildings of Venice, which showed his obsession with projects which became more important to him than his relationships. It does not always proceed  in a linear way; there is a section about Ruskin’s unsuccessful marriage to Effie Gray and how his difficulties possibly stemmed from his relationship with his ambitious parents. Ruskin’s feelings for friends, and especially women, is detailed with loving care; Lipkin has not only researched his writings minutely but also set some of them in a context which goes some way to explaining his well documented actions. This is an excellent, astute and expansive fictional rendering of a life that has attracted much speculation and interest over the years, and I was glad to have the opportunity to read and review this unique book.

 

The book opens with Ruskin, normally noted for his sober demeanor, chasing a carriage over Westminster bridge in London, full of excited vitality. It is because he believes he has caught a glimpse of a young woman, Rose La Touche, sitting in the carriage, so desperate is he to be once more in the company of the much admired young woman. The narrative then reverts to eight years earlier, when Mrs La Touche contacts Ruskin to request that he tutors her two daughters. His first reaction is to be incredulous, as his academic studies have been a near sacred pursuit for both himself and his devoted parents, and teaching children was a time consuming task for a man widely feted for his lectures and writing. Mrs La Touche is most persuasive, eager to add Ruskin to her social circle, and the younger child, Rose, is especially impressive in terms of her sense of humour and intellectual abilities. Soon Ruskin is uncharacteristically involved with the family, treasuring their time together, transfixed by Rose’s unconventional life view. He travels to the family home in Ireland, where he becomes absorbed in the scenery and wildness of Rose’s life, but leaves her parents unimpressed. Admiring Rose from afar, Ruskin tries to distract himself by travel, but a jealous Mrs La Touche brings up his unhappy time with Effie Gray which is the usual point of interest in Ruskin’s biography. This occupies a large section of the book, as well as giving an important insight into Ruskin’s ability to conduct a relationship. As the narrative reverts to the central timeframe, the reader has perhaps gained further insight into Ruskin’s mental state.

 

This is an impressive book in many ways, showing so many aspects of Ruskin’s life and works. It investigates his character thoroughly, suggesting the influence of his strong minded parents,his obsessive ability to concentrate on a project, and his devoted admiration of Rose. It is not a conventional romance, but it has much to say about the nature of love and its outworking in Victorian life. I found it to be an incredible experience to read, a moving and honest account of devotion, and an ambitious project in itself. This is an overwhelming novel of the complexity of a man using existing letters and other documents to compile a multi layered picture of a special relationship in fiction, answering some questions and raising so many more as the reader becomes totally involved in the story of Ruskin and the much admired Rose.   

Green Hands by Barbara Whitton – an Imperial War Wartime Classics account of being a Land Girl

 

 Being a Land Girl during the Second World War was not an easy option, and certainly not the clean, picturesque harvesting of the posters. This is a fictionalised memoir of the experiences of Margaret Hazel Watson who wrote under the pen name of Barbara Whitton. This book was first published in 1943 when the War was far from over, and so not celebratory in any sense. It has been republished in the excellent Imperial War Museum Wartime Classics series and made available to a whole new audience.

 

This is an account of the experience of a Land Girl over a year as she battles with weather, hard back breaking work and uncomfortable lodgings. It also shows her attempting a tricky job and discovering the different tasks connected with harvest. Written with the authentic voice of someone who actually experienced all of the small details of life on the farms as well as the wide range of treatment, Whitton explains how the young women were actually treated as untrained workers and only barely tolerated by some farmers. Indeed two of the girls are greeted by a farmer with the words “Well’, he says in a sort of doleful chant, ‘how do you think you are going to like the land? I doubt if you will last long.” There were eighty thousand women working on the land officially in 1943 after conscription took place, and they were probably subjected to some antagonism as well as gratitude for their efforts. I was really pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this fascinating book.

 

The book begins with an account of Barbara (called ‘Bee’)and her friend Anne arriving at a Scottish farm called Spital Tongues with a lot of luggage. Asked to share a double and uncomfortable bed is one thing, only having one drawer between them, and depending on candle light is another. Beginning work at six in the morning, they are expected to work until nine without breakfast. It is back breaking work lifting mangolds from the field in freezing sleet, and Anne utters her catch phrase “Any minute now I shall do a roaring pass out”. It is seriously heavy work, and that combined with bad weather and little food makes life difficult. Another girl, Pauline arrives, and the three young women have some adventures together, especially as the son of the house Walter has some designs on Pauline. 

 

Bee and Pauline are then sent to a farm in Northumberland where the work is less challenging but still hard at harvest time. Bee is especially challenged and charmed by her job delivering milk, meeting customers and dealing with calves. There are points of humour and even enjoyment in a job which allows slightly more freedom of movement, even if the work is still hard. 

 

I enjoyed this vivid account of life as a Land Girl at a significant point in history. It is a truthful account of the hard work involved in farming with the minimum of machinery. This is a lively, vivid story of life written with some affection for the people and even the work which must be done. As with other books in the series, this account gives a real voice to people who were there, in all the ups and downs, especially the women. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a first hand account of life on the Home Front, especially women’s experiences, and this is a fascinating book for anyone.   

 

This is the eighth book in this collection that I have read, and I have enjoyed them all. They have been immensely vivid, recalling fictionalised accounts of traumatic and challenging situations, even dangerous times.   I have learnt a lot!