A Mother’s War by Mollie Walton: An emotional and insightful story of strength, resilience and forbidden love – book review –
Many people have been enthralled by the story of the wartime Bletchley Park codebreakers... but perhaps few know about of the work of the heroic women who worked in secret, transcribing and decoding the encrypted German messages as they arrived.
Inspired by her visit to the stunning Raven Hall Hotel – which sits 600 feet above sea level in Ravenscar, near Scarborough, and enjoys a cliff-top view over Robin Hood’s Bay – Mollie Walton has dug into this beautiful area’s wartime history.
Walton, pen-name of historical novelist Rebecca Mascull and author of the compelling Ironbridge series, discovered that Raven Hall, built in 1774, was used as a billet for wartime forces with many of the women working at a Y Station, a signals intelligence site, near Scarborough.
And as the wartime home front has often been compared to people’s lives during the Covid-19 pandemic, in terms of the anxiety, fears for the future, restrictions on civil liberties and the grieving process of families who lost loved ones, Walton set out to explore the experiences of women in society, at work and in the home.
In September of 1939, widow Rosina Cavert-Lazenby has summoned her five daughters – Grace, Evelyn, Constance and twins Daisy and Dora – to Raven Hall, the crumbling ancestral home of the Lazenby family, of which Rosina is the sole living member.
As war with Germany is declared, Rosina’s eldest daughter, 21-year-old Grace, who has been studying at Oxford, informs her mother that she will be joining the home front effort as a wireless-telegraphist based at a Y station in Scarborough.
Trading the safety and familiarity of Raven Hall for drills, difficult training and the responsibilities of absolute secrecy will not be easy but soon Grace is carrying out highly valuable transcription work.
And when the RAF come to stay at Raven Hall, Rosina finds herself intrigued by their charismatic, albeit young, Sergeant Harry Woodvine, but is there time for love with the war looming?
With so much on the line, Rosina and Grace must learn how to push themselves and have the courage to lead those around them into the unknown.
A Mother’s War is the first book in what promises to be a gripping trilogy starring Rosina and her five daughters as they are forced to adapt to a new and complex way of life in which love and friendship blossom, and the dangers and losses of wartime are never far away.
Set against the dramatic backdrop of the North Yorkshire coastline, and with its rich and authentic portrayal of the changing role of women and the pressures they faced on the home front, Walton brings us an emotional and insightful story of strength, resilience and forbidden love.
(Welbeck, paperback, £8.99)