The Canary Girls by Rosie Archer
Welcome back to Priddy’s Hard, the Royal Navy Armament Depot in Gosport, Hampshire, where the famous ‘Canary Girls’ are helping to arm the Allies’ D-Day invasion fleet, and where camaraderie forms the bedrock of everyday life.
In the follow-up to her compelling debut novel The Munitions Girls, Rosie Archer sweeps us away again to England in 1944 and into the hearts and minds of the women who pack shells and bullets with sulphurous chemicals that make their skin and hair turn yellow.
Archer, who was born and raised in Gosport, brings to life the dangerous and dirty work undertaken by the 2,500 women at the factory during the Second World War in a gripping story packed with darkness and light, love and friendship, greed and betrayal.
Rita Brown is lucky to be alive after a terrible explosion at the munitions factory left her scarred down one side of her face. It took a long time for her to realise it but she now knows that there is more to life than a pretty face.
She is back on her feet and back at work, and she has caught the eye of local wide boy Blackie Bristow, a handsome charmer who is sweeping her around the country in a life of shady glamour.
Rita knows Blackie deals in black market goods and sometimes she feels uncomfortable but if she gets the odd perk like lipsticks and stockings then maybe she is entitled to the gold dust gifts that come her way.
But the war is dragging on and life is not all fun and games for Rita and her friends at Priddy’s Hard. It’s a topsy-turvy world and some local men are breaking more than just the girls’ hearts. Standing up to them comes with its own costs.
Rita keeps calm and carries on with a little help from her good friends at the factory but then she discovers that someone at work has been leaking secrets to the Germans. With D-Day on the horizon, Rita must work out who she can rely on… and fast.
Archer’s vibrant and imaginatively drawn cast of characters pays homage to the brave ‘canary girls’ who literally risked life and limb to keep the Allied wartime fighting machine in operation.
Their lives and loves, their firm friendships, their struggles against the odds and their small but significant triumphs are powerfully portrayed in a story that is rich in both romance and down-to-earth reality.
Nostalgic, gritty and absorbing, this is the perfect tale to brighten up the dark winter nights…
(Quercus, paperback, £6.99)