When it’s really really cold!

Her Frozen Heart Book Cover Her Frozen Heart
Lulu Taylor
psychological, womens' literature
Pan
(30 Nov. 2017)

Caitlyn, there’s something I have to tell you. About Sara.

Caitlyn thinks her marriage to Patrick is a success. For one thing, he is one of the few people not to fall head over heels for her beautiful friend, Sara. Life is lived on his terms, but they are happy.

Aren’t they?

When a devastating accident turns her existence upside down, Caitlyn is forced to reassess everything she thought about her marriage, what she truly knows about Patrick, and his real feelings for her best friend. In the refuge of an old manor house, she begins to discover the truth.

In 1947, the worst winter in decades hits England, cutting off entirely the inhabitants of Kings Harcourt Manor. For Tommy Carter, widowed at the start of war, it is particularly hard: the burden of the family falls on her. She has the solace of her children, and the interesting presence of her brother’s friend, Fred. But there is also Barbara, a mysterious figure from her past who appears to want a piece of Tommy’s future as well.

Loved the way the story moved between the two women in different times, but who were, in the end, linked by the same house.

I had – sort of – known that the winter in the UK in 1947 was bad, but not quite as bad as was shown in this novel.

It must have been dreadful to experience when the UK had not yet recovered from WW2 and there were still shortages of basic foods and heating materials  – the coal had frozen in the mines and the drifts were too high for the miners to get to work or coal to be transported.

An anti-cyclone sat over Scandinavia and there were 6 weeks of snow falling – 55 days in total. The temperature dropped to -21C in Bedfordshire and this was before people had thermal underwear and outdoor clothing that was suitable for this type of weather.

Newspapers were cut to 4 pages.

There were no electric fires (the main alternative to coal in most houses) between 9-12am and 2-4pm.

And no afternoon Greyhound Racing!

Over 20,000 acres of corn was destroyed by the cold.

That said, I personally experienced the winter of 1963 as a schoolgirl in the days before 1. Tights, and 2. Trousers were permitted to be worn.

I walked to school.

3.5 miles each way.

I thought my knees would never stop chapping and warm up!

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An Xmas away from home

Evacuee's Christmas Book Cover Evacuee's Christmas
Katie King
Fiction. literature, historical, family sagas
HQ
19 Oct. 2017

 heart-warming story of friendship and family during the first Christmas of World War Two.

Autumn 1939 and London prepares to evacuate its young. In No 5 Jubilee Street, Bermondsey, ten-year-old Connie is determined to show her parents that she’s a brave girl and can look after her twin brother, Jessie. She won’t cry, not while anyone’s watching.

In the crisp Yorkshire Dales, Connie and Jessie are billeted to a rambling vicarage. Kindly but chaotic, Reverend Braithwaite is determined to keep his London charges on the straight and narrow, but the twins soon find adventures of their own. As autumn turns to winter, Connie’s dearest wish is that war will end and they will be home for Christmas. But this Christmas Eve there will be an unexpected arrival…

A timely reminder of how primitive maternal medicine was in the 1940s – and how costly before the NHS, and thus we have the reluctance to seek medical help even when clearly necessary.

I loved the fact that both sides – the Yorkshire people and the Londoners – thought that the other was speaking a foreign language. Such broad dialects have now largely disappeared and you rarely hear a true Cockney, let alone broad Yorkshire with its old English/Viking words being used.

Funnily enough, I have just read an article suggesting that there are some good words in English we can use that have gone out of fashion –  and another suggesting that we can br broaden our language by using some foreign words that have meanings in one word that take us several to try and describe! However, some of these words are very difficult to pronounce eg those from the Inuit language!

One thing that I hadn’t realised about WW2 was that the Govt had suggested – firmly – that all pets be euthanized, to save food of course.

I felt that the childrens’ behaviour as described was very believable, and overall found this a heart-warming, cosy story with a good possibility of follow-up books. After all, who wouldn’t want to know what happens about the abusive but absent husband and the doctor’s romance…

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A War for the Female Gender?

Silver Stars Book Cover Silver Stars
Front Lines
Michael Grant
YA, military, fantasy, action and adventure
Electric Monkey
February 9, 2017
496

Sequel to Front Lines, the epic new young adult series by the author of GONE set in an alternate World War II. Summer 1943. The enemy has been bloodied, but Nazi Germany is very far from beaten. Now the American army is moving on to their next target: the Italian island of Sicily. With heavy memories of combat, the three young soldier girls - Rio, Frangie and Rainy - now know what they are willing to do to save themselves, and understand the consequences of those actions. On the front lines, they will again come face to face with the brutality of war until they win or die, while simultaneously fighting their own personal battles. No one will emerge unscathed.

 

A book that immediately engages your mind and emotions.

As this book begins we read a letter from someone who is in hospital recovering from being shot in the chest.

It is WW2 in an alternate Earth where there are women soldiers fighting on the front line. The letter’s author tells us about the experiences of 3 of the women who each have different roles. There is a white girl from small ‘c’ conservative USA heartlands, who is in the infantry; there is a New York Jewish girl who works for Army intelligence; and there is a coloured girl from Oklahoma working as a medic. They had met before 1943 – which is where this story is set, but this fact only comes to light late in the book, unless you have read the first book in this series. The series has a short novella that follows and a further book not yet published which tells of the war from where this book finishes.

The war, as it is told in this story, is very similar to the one we know from our Earth, with just a few changes, but not enough to notice unless you happen to be an expert.

In this world’s army – if the men did it, then the women did also. From digging trenches and latrines, to shooting to kill, even sharing their accommodation with the men in their unit. Your gender is relevant here – only your army role counts – unless you are coloured in which case you will be I  a special unit and have your own tents and so on. Just as we did in our version of WW2.

So we hear about each girl and how their war unfolds.

The white girl goes through the infantry hell of North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. The Jewish girl becomes a spy ina complicated sub-plot which involves the Mafia and the Gestapo. And the coloured girl demonstrates her heroism in the trenches and how she treats those under her charge.

The book is frank about sexism, racism and the brutalities of war and how it hardens the mentions of those who go through it. It tells how human comfort is offered and accepted at unlikely times and how friendships are formed under conditions of duress. Torture is not missed but not in every bloody d3tail but much is told often in remembrances which make it a little less stark which must help the audience at which this series is targeted – the older YA including 6th forms. There is plenty of swearing but whilst there is no bowdlerisation the sear words are change to make them acceptable to libraries etc.

As a reflection for the YA audience on how fighting a war is less than heroism but more about dirt; disease; the randomness of death and injury and sheer bloodiness; trench foot; cold; wet; and awful food,  it gets its message across.

 

 

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Write a journal – do!

The Chilbury Ladies Choir Book Cover The Chilbury Ladies Choir
Jennifer Ryan
rural life, history, fiction, women's literature
The Borough Press
(23 Feb. 2017)

A warm, funny and big-hearted novel of wartime gumption and village spirit which will make your heart sing out, and is perfect for fans of Helen Simonson’s The Summer before the War and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Kent, 1940.

In the idyllic village of Chilbury change is afoot. Hearts are breaking as sons and husbands leave to fight, and when the Vicar decides to close the choir until the men return, all seems lost.

But coming together in song is just what the women of Chilbury need in these dark hours, and they are ready to sing. With a little fighting spirit and the arrival of a new musical resident, the charismatic Miss Primrose Trent, the choir is reborn.

Some see the choir as a chance to forget their troubles, others the chance to shine. Though for one villager, the choir is the perfect cover to destroy Chilbury’s new-found harmony.

Uplifting and profoundly moving, THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR explores how a village can endure the onslaught of war, how monumental history affects small lives and how survival is as much about friendship as it is about courage.

As promised this novel is in the vein of the Guernsey Eel Pie and Potatoes Literary Society story line and delivers well on its promise.

It is set in a small – And it seems rather inbred – village in the Southern half of Britain as the 2nd WW begins.

We see the events of the years unfold through a number of different eyes as they write in their journals or letters. These views, of the Ladies Choir, give us a real sense of what the society of the village must have been like, from the toffs to the more humble servants who ‘knew their place’ and yet were liberated from the social order norm by the need for women to work in war support roles, eg as engineers in factories and so n, rather than as servants to the richer members of society.

The missives come from all ages from a 13 year old to older ladies, and as the years pass we see their characters change as events befall them including bombings and deaths. Through necessitude they become the better person of themselves.

Whilst not being specific there are many allusions to secret sites where spies are trained and other secret activities take place – see Bletchley Park

The idea of people writing journals and similar was common during the war and encouraged by the Govt through the Mass Observation dept which has given just such a rich idea of what life was really like for the common worker and especially women …… struggling to make sense of a new social order which required them to cook in a different way; and even go out to work when they had not done so before.

I thought that the writer kept up the different styles of the authors well and hat their characters really came through.

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