Two sparkling sagas for summer nights by various authors - book reviews -
Take a trip back to the 1940s and 1950s with two heartwarming sagas which explore the challenges still faced by women in the years after the Second World War.
Angel of Liverpool
If a gripping blend of romance, nostalgia and heartfelt emotions is your perfect reading recipe, then head off to Liverpool with actress Elizabeth Morton for a delicious saga for summer nights.
Morton, who is married to actor Peter Davison of Doctor Who fame, has a sharp eye for drama and her childhood years in Liverpool have armed her with a love and knowledge of both the city and its people.
And after success with A Liverpool Girl and A Last Dance in Liverpool, Morton returns once again to Merseyside for a gritty and evocative tale set in the aftermath of the Second World War as communities struggled to rebuild their lives amidst the rubble.
It’s 1946 and there are differing opinions in Liverpool’s rundown Sailortown area as to what happened to Evangeline O’Leary’s mother. Her younger sisters believe the story that she’s in heaven. But Evie, who was always called Angel by her mother, has heard the gossips… that her ma has upped and left with the man she had an affair with while Evie’s dad was fighting in the war.
As the eldest child, Evie has become ‘mum’ to her three siblings, all while holding down a job at the Tate and Lyle sugar factory. But when her childhood sweetheart, Frankie, leaves for Canada he leaves Evie with more than just a broken heart.
Her father agrees to keep the pregnancy a secret but is determined to marry her off to the first hapless fellow who will have her. Evie doesn’t want a loveless marriage like her parents but how long can she keep her baby a secret from her neighbours… and the nuns who run the local home for unmarried mothers?
Evie’s tale of hardship as she battles through a tough childhood at the Catholic school run by strict nuns, and her determination to keep her precious child against all the odds, takes readers on a rollercoaster journey full of emotional turmoil.
The indissoluble bond between a mother and her child is explored with both compassion and insight, and Morton delights with her rich post-war period detail, a charismatic cast of eclectic characters, and an entertaining slice of Scouse humour.
Prepare to have your heartstrings well and truly tugged!
(Pan, paperback, £7.99)
The Gypsy’s Daughter
Growing up with a Gypsy father and a mother who gave up everything she had known to marry him, Harmony ‘Harry’ Loveridge’s life has been unconventional but happy.
And when she gets the chance to go to university, it seems Harry will achieve her long-held ambition… but fate has a way of getting in the way of dreams and one night her world comes crashing down.
In the follow-up to her debut novel, The Gypsy Bride, Katie Hutton continues her compelling exploration of love and culture clash as we move into the post-war period of the 1950s with the daughter of Sam and Ellen Loveridge, the two star-crossed lovers who had to overcome the prejudice and hostility of their entrenched communities to marry.
It was while browsing in a charity shop that Hutton stumbled across a book detailing the intrinsic part played by seasonal Romany Gypsies during the hop-picking season in Kent in the early decades of the 20th century, and its depiction of them as the ‘warp and weft of the agricultural year’ set in motion these richly detailed cross-cultural sagas.
Harry is growing up on a farm in Kent in the 1940s and 50s. Her Gypsy father Sam has settled down as manager of a hop farm and retains his family’s Gypsy ways and customs while her mother Ellen is a teacher and encourages her bright and lively daughter to aim high.
Eager to go to university, and with a scholarship in sight, it looks as though Harry is about to get what she wants until one night, during the yearly hopping, the girl is subjected to a terrible trauma which threatens to end her dreams.
If she is to pursue the future she always wanted, Harry must draw on all her strength and courage to win a scholarship and embark on her new beginnings at Nottingham University. Will she be able to escape the tragedies of her past, or is history doomed to repeat itself?
With its soaring passions, human dramas and emotional poignancy, and a gritty evocation of the social constraints on women wanting to break the bounds of domestic expectation in this period, The Gypsy’s Daughter is an enthralling and well-researched saga with the charismatic figure of Harry Loveridge at its beating heart.
The beautiful Kent countryside and the contrasting busy streets of Nottingham, heart-soaring romance and gritty reality also play roles in this emotionally powerful story which explores mid-20th century social history and comes complete with an old-fashioned recipe for sweet scones.
Delicious summertime reading!
(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)