Monday, 20 January 2014

Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts by Mary Gibson

The women who work at the Pearce Duff factory in Bermondsey are known locally as The Custard Tarts.  They work incredibly long hours for a pittance in poor conditions but it is the spirit and the friendships of these women that keep them going.  That is until they cannot take the appalling work conditions any longer and go on strike which causes even further hardships.

Nellie Clark’s mother died when she was young and it has been her role to care for and support her younger brothers and sister.  Her father is an angry, bitter man who drinks his wages away so the strike plunges Nellie’s family into extreme poverty.

However, Nellie is made of strong stuff and finds a way to ensure her family do not face starvation.  Whilst, striving for the good of her family Nellie is romantically pursued by two men who are competing for her attentions.  But with the shadow of war looming amidst the ongoing hardships it is unlikely that Nellie will find time for love.

I was attracted to this book because it is set in Bermondsey.  My father was born and grew up in the area as did my grandfather and great-grandfather before him. So, when I saw that this was set in the area in the years leading up to World War One I was very keen to read it. Although a work of fiction, the author based this book on her own ancestry in Bermondsey and I was delighted to learn that we share a common geographical ancestry.

Mary Gibson’s debut novel makes for a lovely read.  Her characters are superb and very well developed and it was so easy to get emotionally involved with these characters who’s hardships are heartbreaking but who’s strength of spirit is utterly admirable.

The author clearly has a good understanding of both the setting and time of this novel and it has been well researched.  Themes of struggle, love and war are all present and come together in this easy to read novel.

Any one who enjoys historical fiction, family saga or romance will enjoy this book. It has a wonderful feel good factor and if Ms. Gibson writes a second novel I would very much want to read it.  She is clearly an author to watch and if she continues to write to this standard could well become a household name.

ISBN:  978 1781855775

Publisher:  Head of Zeus

Price:  (Today at Amazon):  £15.29

Total saving so far:  £144.81

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