The Dover Café at War by Ginny Bell: Brimming with emotion and drama - book review -

War is looming large in the coastal town of Dover and at the busy café in Market Square, the lively Castle family are coming to terms with what might lie ahead in the weeks and years to come.

Wednesday, 23rd September 2020, 12:30 pm
The Dover Café at War
The Dover Café at War

War is looming large in the coastal town of Dover and at the busy café in Market Square, the lively Castle family are coming to terms with what might lie ahead in the weeks and years to come.

What they don’t yet know is that the town they love faces four long years of relentless bombing raids… and will become known to one and all as Hellfire Corner.

In the first book of her gritty debut wartime saga series, Ginny Bell sweeps readers away to her home town of Dover, the strategically important Kent port which was virtually demolished by enemy shelling and lost more than half of its population, mostly due to evacuation.

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In The Dover Café at War, we are plunged into the lives of formidable widow Nellie Castle and her six children as they navigate a way through the trials and tribulations of wartime with courage, resilience, hope, heart and humour.

As the nation teeters on the brink of war in August 1939, the Castle family try to carry on regardless at their popular café in the heart of Dover where tea and rock cakes are always on the menu.

For widow Nellie Castle and her six grown-up children, Rodney, Marianne, Lily, Edie, Bert and Jimmy, life has been tough since her husband Donald died twelve years ago and the scandal which engulfed eldest daughter Marianne ten years.

Aged just seventeen and unmarried, Marianne gave birth to her son Donny and since then has preferred to stay in the kitchen, hidden away from the scrutiny of the town gossips. Overcome with shame, she has never revealed the identity of Donny’s father… not even to her own mother.

But with another war now just around the corner, and when she least expects it, Marianne’s past catches up with her and suddenly the lives of the Castle family become a lot more complicated. Will the secrets from her past destroy their future?

Bell’s pride and affection for the town she knows so well shines through in this heartwarming saga as the charismatic Castle family spring to life and we share in their dramas, secrets, laughter, tears, hopes and fears during the early months of the war.

At the heart of the action is the strong and determined Nellie Castle, a woman whose humour, loyalty and straight-talking help to guide her gregarious family through the uncertainties, restrictions and ever present dangers of wartime.

Brilliantly researched, written with warmth and insight, brimming with emotion and drama, and starring a cast of superbly drawn characters who are guaranteed to touch the hearts of readers everywhere, The Dover Café series looks set to be a new favourite with saga fans.

(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)