Book review: Snowflakes in the Wind by Rita Bradshaw

Snowflakes in the Wind by Rita Bradshaw
Snowflakes in the Wind by Rita Bradshaw

Lest we forget…

The appalling atrocities perpetrated by Japanese forces on prisoners-of-war during the Second World War come under the spotlight in a moving and gripping tale of love, loss and survival from one of the nation’s favourite saga queens.

Steel yourself for the shocking brutalities of wartime, and prepare to have your heartstrings pulled, as Rita Bradshaw, whose raft of gritty, compelling novels includes the number one bestseller Dancing in the Moonlight, sweeps us away on a rollercoaster journey filled with passion, danger and drama.

On Christmas Eve in 1920, nine-year-old Abby Kirby’s family is ripped apart by a terrible tragedy. Facing the horrors of the workhouse and leaving everything and everyone she has ever known in Sunderland, Abby takes her younger brother Robin and runs away to find their estranged grandfather Wilbert Craggs, who lives near Kelso in the Scottish Borders.

As the years pass, Abby and Robin grow to love their caring Granda and their new home at Crab Apple Farm amongst the tough Borders farming families. Abby becomes a beautiful and intelligent young woman but her past still haunts her, casting dark shadows on her life.

Whilst most of the local community have welcomed her as one of their own, her mother’s former fiancé Joe McHaffie, still consumed with bitterness over being jilted, bears the girl a grudge and is set on doing her harm.

Meanwhile, Abby has fallen hopelessly in love with the local laird’s handsome son Nicholas Jefferson-Price, a young man with a warm heart, an innate sense of fair play and a burning desire to become a doctor.

Abby knows his father would never accept her into the family and with her heart broken, she decides to make a new life for herself and train as a nurse in Galashiels.

When the Second World War breaks out, she volunteers as a Queen Alexandra nurse and is sent overseas to France and then on to Hong Kong. But her already precarious life takes another unexpected and dangerous turn when the Japanese invade and she becomes a prisoner of war.

Abby quickly realises that nothing she has survived so far will compare to the trials that lie ahead…

Bradshaw digs deep into some of the darkest corners of history for this harrowing, haunting tale which is filled with love and hate, humanity and inhumanity, compassion and cruelty, and never fails to impress with the sheer power of its emotional storytelling.

A determination to succeed against all odds, the sense of community and friendship that helps even the most oppressed to survive, and the strength of love to defeat malice and brutality are the driving forces for a novel which will delight Bradshaw’s army of fans.

(Macmillan, hardback, £20)