Christmas with the Shipyard Girls - Nancy Revell
Ok, complete guilty pleasure time. As many of you know certain books capture your heart not necessarily because of the writing, plot or great characterisation, but because of a time in your life, a place or moment or the people you are with. This book represents that concept beautifully. It has heartwarming, wonderful characters and a fast moving plot like a lot of novels, but what gives this book the X factor for me is what it represents. My mother in law, Christine attended a talk and signing with the author and thought I might like to read them, so bought me the first one to set me off. It also represents the place where the majority of the family now reside, and mentions areas I know because of walks the family have been on or the places they or their friends live. In short, I can read Nancy Revell's words and picture clearly the place that she is describing or hear the North East lilting voices in every word.
Nancy Revell has taken inspiration from the real life 'Shipyard Girls' who had been wives and mothers, but during the Second World War took on the jobs that the men left behind. Sunderland had a thriving ship building industry and the coastline was dotted with shipyards. Women became welders, riveters and draughts-women as well as managers and were to go on and transform working life as we know it.
'Christmas with the Shipyard Girls' is book 7 in the series, and follows the lives of a group of women with each book focusing on one or two of the group. This novel centres around Polly and Rosie. Polly, my favourite character of the group, whose fiance has returned from the war badly wounded while Rosie who has a headstrong little sister determined to leave her boarding school to be with Rosie in Sunderland. However Rosie does not want her sister to discover her 'other life' and how she could afford said Boarding School. Alongside the rest of the group and a wide range of engaging secondary characters, we watch Polly and Rosie come to terms with the issues they face and subsequently navigate.
There are themes running throughout the whole series of faith, hope and, of course, love as well as the tremendous bonds forged between the women. I love learning about Sunderland and to consider how this has changed over the years. The most intereresting aspect is the sense of community spirit during the war, families helping families as well as the changing nature of a woman's perceived role in society. Its wonderful and hopeful at such an awful and terrifying time of Britain's history. Every time I read one of these novels, I feel inspired by these great women and my own Grandmother who made bombs during World War 2 in Leeds. I was not surprised to learn this given that she was such a formidable character!
And so, to conclude I love these books. They inspire and delight and I feel very committed to this bunch of characters. They make me think of my in laws and the strong town that they live in.
It feels wrong to recommend a rich, decadent cake to enjoy with this book. Instead I think you should settle in, turn on the lamp and enjoy a rock bun and a cup of builders tea. You're going to be there for a while!