#BookReview THE SURPLUS GIRLS by POLLY HERON

ABOUT THE BOOK

After the loss of war, can there be hope for the future?
Manchester, 1922.

Belinda Layton is a surplus girl. One of the many women whose dreams of marriage perished in the Great War, with the death of her beloved fiancé, Ben. After four years of mourning, she’s ready to face the future, even though Ben’s family is not happy to see her move on, and her own only cares about getting hold of her meagre factory wages.

Then, Belinda joins a secretarial class and a whole new world opens up to her as she quickly finds herself drawn to beguiling bookshop owner Richard Carson. But after all the loss and devastation she has experienced, can she really trust him with her heart?

PUBLISHED BY CORVUS

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK

hive.co.uk

Whsmith 

MY REVIEW

This is the first in a trio of sagas set in the 1920’s and what a way to start! Full of inspiring female characters and a great way to look back at a time in history when women were being written off as ‘surplus girls’ as they’d lost their husbands or fiancees in the Great War.


Belinda is the surplus girl, who is in her 4th year of grieving for her beloved Ben. As she reaches her 21st birthday she is finding life tough working at the mill, under the extremely creepy and vile Mr Butterfield, and starts to want a little more from life. All her plans for life with Ben are gone, so she wants to start taking care of herself and signs up for a secretarial course which promises to give her more of a future and won’t need to rely on anyone else.


Running the secretarial course are Patience and Prudence, 2 more wonderful characters, who come up with the brilliant idea of training young girls, in a way to ensure they don’t lose their house. They’ve seen how things are difficult for these young women and I just loved how smart/devious (!) they were in getting their plans put into action!


As Belinda begins a work placement in a local bookshop, she gains so much confidence in herself and is beginning to see there might be a life after Ben, although she is still very much beholden to people around her – her own family rely on her financially, and she never shirks from that responsibility, and Ben’s family are still very much grieving and expect her to keep doing the same without realising that she cannot grieve forever.


I really enjoyed the issues within this story – the pressures and expectations women were having to deal with at the time in history and how difficult times led people to desperate measures. The women in this story were some really impressive characters who were very hardworking and didn’t let situations get on top of them.

★★★★★

My thanks to the author and publisher for the advanced reading copy in return for a fair and honest review.

#20BooksOfSummer #BookReview A Respectable Woman by Susanna Bavin

And to book 19 of the #20BooksOfSummer.  This had been sitting on my shelves for a while after I’d been sent a signed copy by the lovely Susanna Bavin, and at 477 pages long it was perfect for the long part of my reading challenge! And what a mighty fine story it was too! Loved it!!

ABOUT THE BOOK

After losing her family in the Great War, Nell is grateful to marry Stan Hibbert, believing she can recapture a sense of family with him. But five years on, she is just another back-street housewife, making every penny do the work of tuppence and performing miracles with scrag-end. When she discovers that Stan is leading a double-life, she runs away to make a fresh start.

Two years later, in 1924, Nell has carved out a fulfilling new life for herself and her young children in Manchester, where her neighbors believe she is a respectable widow and a talented machinist. But the past is hard to run from, and Nell must fight to protect the life she has made for herself and her children.

PUBLISHED BY  Allison & Busby

MY REVIEW

I’m a recent convert to the genre of Sagas and if they’re all going to be this good then I’m glad to have finally started reading them! I found this to be such an enthralling read that I had to read it in one sitting and have taken the character of Nell to my heart as she had to put up with so much heartache but still found the strength to pick herself up and carry on.

Nell had faced heartbreak in her past – she lost her family in the Great War so was facing the world alone, until a soldier, Stan, walked into her life and seemingly was her knight in shining armour. She finds married life hard, with long hours working, trying to raise her son too while Stan seemed more interested in the opening hours of the pub. By chance she finds out the truth about Stan and his other family, so she does what is best for her and her son and runs away to Manchester to start over.

Life isn’t much easier up there but she soon finds somewhere to live, a lovely woman called Leonie takes her in and treats her like her own daughter, and Nell works her fingers to the bone as a machinist as she now has 2 children to provide for. All those who know her now think she’s widowed and admire her for her ability to stay so strong. All doesn’t run smoothly though in her new home as Leonies’ son in law doesnt’ seem to like the influence Nell has over his mother in law – being nice to someone seems alien to him and the more you find out about him and how he treats his own family, the more it made my blood boil!!

As she creates a new life for herself, she never shirks the hard work and also turns into a bit of a heroine but that notoriety may soon become her downfall as the press attention brings back her past and to see how women were treated, even in the court system, at that time was appalling and quite an eye opener. With the help of her new friends you always find yourself cheering her on in her battles but always fearful that the attitudes of the time would go against her.

There were some vile characters in this book that were brilliantly described, and the character of Posy was just a delight – the author really captured the children in this so well! Naive in many situations, but wise beyond their years in others and their storylines really added extra depth to this story of triumph over adversity.

★★★★★