Book review: Now the War is Over by Annie Murray

Now the War is Over byAnnie Murray
Now the War is Over byAnnie Murray

The city of Birmingham may not be Annie Murray’s home territory but its people, its streets and its past have become an integral part of her life.

It’s over 20 years since Murray published her first Birmingham-based novel and as her 20th heartwarming tale of love and loss, triumph and disaster is published, she invites us to immerse ourselves once again in the life and times of this historic city.

Murray, whose home was in Birmingham when she began her writing career, invests hours of local research and her own powerful gift of imagination into her action-packed, family-based sagas, and her genuine affection for the city and its people shines through.

Now the War is Over, a rollercoaster story of post-war hardship and the struggles of a reunited family, features characters from last year’s bestselling War Babies and offers the same irresistible blend of romance, drama, emotion and compelling authenticity.

The Second World War has finally ended, Birmingham is welcoming home its menfolk and a new chapter is beginning in Rachel Booker’s life in Aston, an area of tightly-packed factories, warrens of houses, the ‘hoppy’ smells of Ansell’s brewery and the sour tang of vinegar from the HP Sauce factory.

Rachel’s husband Danny has returned safely and the family that struggled for survival throughout the uncertain war years is together again. Life settles into a routine but Rachel, now a mother to four children, is unsatisfied and yearns to leave their cramped, rented rooms and buy a house of their own.

Melly, Rachel’s eldest child, grew up in the bombed-out streets of Birmingham and has never known anything other than the hungry ration years and supporting her mother and younger brother Tommy who has cerebral palsy and can hardly leave their home.

But times are changing and Melly now has a better future ahead of her. She is determined to make the most of life and her greatest wish is to become a nurse.

As the promise of the 1950s dawns, a whole new world of opportunity opens up for both Rachel and Melly but the changes bring new challenges and tough choices. The two women will have to decide if their loyalties still lie with the family and friends they clung to throughout the war years, or if it’s finally time to move on…

Murray packs her warm-hearted and gritty story with powerful insights into the realities of life in post-war Britain, including a sensitive and moving portrayal of cerebral palsy sufferer Tommy.

The lovable Booker family’s chequered progress epitomises the hopes and fears of a nation awakening after six long years of deprivation, eager to welcome in an era of change but still beset by the legacy of war.

An enchanting and fascinating slice of family life in the Fifties and Sixties…

(Macmillan, hardback, £20)