Friday, 29 January 2016

Secrets of the Singer Girls by Kate Thompson

1942 and sixteen year old Poppy Percival arrives at the gates of Trout's clothing factory in Bethnal Green, ready to begin a new life as an East End seamstress. Forced to leave her quiet countryside home, and banished to a war-ravaged London, Poppy harbours a dark secret - one that tore her away from all she knew.

By day, the East End women of Trout's play their part in the war effort, stitching bandages and repairing uniforms for troops on the front line. But Poppy's new friends at the factory are hiding some painful truths. Vera, the salt-of-the-earth forelady, has had a hard life, with scars both visible and concealed. Vera's glamorous younger sister, Daisy, has romantic notions that could get her into  trouble; while Sal. a hard working mother, worries about the safety of her two evacuated boys for good reason.

As the war throws their lives into turmoil, it will also bring the Singer Girls closer than they could ever have imagined.

This book originally appealed to me for two reasons. First, I grew up in Bethnal Green where this book is set. Secondly, I have something of a fascination for books set in the East End of London during World War Two, probably because my mother lived through it. She told me many stories during my childhood of her life during the Blitz and I think fiction set during that time has a heightened sense of realism for me because of this.

This was a nice easy read and I enjoyed it very much. It rolls along at a very readable pace and I found myself very keen to get back to it.

It deals with some very difficult themes; not only the hardships of surviving life on the home front but violence, poverty and scandal and the affect that this has on the day to day lives of the characters.

I liked the characters very much and could easily identify with them. I couldn't help but feel involved in the lives of these women and the flow of dialogue between them aided this as the author used this to allow readers a better understanding of the characters.

Most interesting to read about were the attitudes and ideas of the time and to recognise how different they were to the mental outlook of society today. Some of the situations that in today's society would barely be considered worthy of notice were considered scandalous at the time and to our modern day perspective we look back and are equally scandalized by what women had to put up with. Other behaviours were as abhorrent back then as they are today.

This is a book about bravery, friendship and love and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in life on the home front or women's issues.

I am interested to see that Kate Thompson has another book, Secrets of the Sewing Bee, coming out this year. Also, set in Trout's factory but with different characters it promises to give us another glimpse into life in London's East End during World War Two.

ISBN: 978-1447280866

Publisher:  Pan

About the Author:

Kate is an award winning journalist with 15 years experience of working in print media. She has worked with Pick Me Up magazine amongst other publications. 

She has also worked on national newspapers, the Daily Express and Daily Mail.

Now she is a mum to two young boys and juggles her writing with school runs.

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