Wedding Bells for Woolworths by Elaine Everest: An enchanting mix of drama, romance, misunderstandings and danger - book review -
Ring out the bells, dig out your glad rags, and get ready to dance to the music of time as the Woolworths girls say goodbye to wartime… and hello to a brave new world.
Welcome back to a brand new post-war chapter in the entertaining fortunes and misfortunes of Elaine Everest’s ‘family’ of devoted and dedicated store staff who have become like friends to an army of readers.
Everest’s wonderfully nostalgic Woolies series, which has brought new life and love for the famous stores that once graced almost every high street in the country, has taken us through the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a group of hard-working women and their boss Betty Billington during the turbulent war years.
When the long years of conflict finally ended in Everest’s fourth book, A Gift from Woolworths, her plan was to make it the girls’ last chapter but she was so inundated by readers begging to find out what happened next for her Woolies girls that she happily returned to familiar territory.
Set once again in Everest’s home town of Erith in Kent, where she briefly worked as a Woolworths girl herself, the fifth book in a series which has stolen the hearts of thousands of saga fans with its rich period detail and charismatic cast, moves to 1947 as the nation tentatively stepped forward into a new era of change and second chances.
It’s summertime and Britain is still gripped by rationing and the harsh legacies of war, even as the excitement of young Princess Elizabeth’s engagement to the handsome Philip Mountbatten sweeps the nation.
In the Woolworths’ canteen, 26-year-old Freda Smith is still dreaming of meeting her own Prince Charming. So far Freda, who escaped to the Kentish town in 1938 after an unhappy childhood, has been unlucky in love. Buoyed by the close friendships she has now formed, biker-mad Freda helps out at the motor business of Alan Gilbert, a former RAF pilot and husband of her best friend Sarah, in between her shifts at Woolies.
But when she has an accident on one of Alan’s motorbikes and knocks a man off his bicycle, it seems bad luck is still following her around. Anthony Forsythe is not only a trainee manager at her Woolworths but was hoping to take part in next year’s London Olympics. Will his injured leg heal in time for him to compete, and can he ever forgive Freda?
Meanwhile, mother-of-two Sarah’s idyllic family life is under threat with worries about husband Alan. Why does his business have so few customers now, why are they so short of money, and does he still love her?
The friends must rally round to face some of the toughest challenges of their lives together. And although they experience loss, hardship and shocks along the way, love is on the horizon for the Woolworths girls…
Wedding Bells for Woolworths delivers an enchanting mix of drama, romance, misunderstandings and danger whilst exploring hard-hitting issues like racism, abortion and the effects of hardship and debt.
Everest grew up listening to stories of the war years in the pretty, old Saxon town of Erith, which nestles south of the River Thames, and her love and knowledge of the people who live in this corner of the country shines through in these lively and nostalgic books.
Brimming with warmth, friendships, authentic historical and social history, tears, laughter, and the author’s storytelling magic, the Woolworths girls and their dramas reflect the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary times, and celebrate the community spirit that holds us all together.
The perfect escapist read for the long days of lockdown…
(Pan, paperback, £6.99)