The Shipyard Girls on the Homefront by Nancy Revell
I have to confess dear reader that I am starting to feel slightly anxious about The Shipyard Girls series. I have followed and read this wonderful set of novels since its first book. These books remain very close to my heart as they are all set in Sunderland, where my in-laws and the other half of Team Yorkshire (Hi Jenny and Owen!) all live. The beaches are beautiful and the people are warm and friendly. Sunderland has a very proud ship-building history and it is this which features in the novels.
A quick note - and it is my usual note, I would strongly recommend reading these in order. Whilst Nancy Revell does a great job in bringing you up to speed with the events of the previous books, I do think that it is so beneficial to read them in order.
It's December 1943 and the war effort is gaining momentum in Europe which means that the Shipyard Girls are working flat out to produce ships and landing craft for the allies. For the women, their lives continue. Gloria is now reunited with Jack, the father of her child. But her two sons know nothing of her relationship with Jack or their new half sister. Rosie is anxiously waiting for news of her husband Peter, who is carrying out dangerous work for the SOE in France. And Dorothy knows that her boyfriend Toby looks set to propose, but her head has been turned by another man.
I think that out of all ten books released so far, this is by and far the most emotional. What remains strong throughout the books is the women's strong friendship. In times of crisis and great happiness the women all come together to provide support and love. Their stories are so inter-woven and as the books have continued to be published, more characters have been added to the women's circle. Lily remains one of my favourites.
Helen's character has seen a real 180 degree arc. At the start of the novels, she was definitely the villain! But she has thawed considerably and is now more human. Whilst I don't believe the girls are quite fully ready to accept her as one of them, I do find myself rooting that she and Dr Parker will get together.
The novel remains a love-letter to the brave men and women providing ships in Sunderland and involved in the Shipyard during World War Two. Indeed the author discovered that her own relatives were 'Shipyard Girls' and there is clearly great pride when writing about the people of Sunderland.
As always I love to read about the areas I know from family walks with my family and I was delighted to learn there is now a Shipyard Girls walking tour available. If we ever emerge out of lockdown I would love to do this.
As I said, this novel feels the most emotional and we get a glimpse into the thoughts and fears when a loved is away fighting. And sadly a glimpse of the raw emotion felt upon receiving 'a telegram'. It's extremely sobering and brings home the extraordinary sacrifices and losses endured during World War 2. The last 50 pages or so, had me on a rollercoaster of emotion, so buckle in folks and have your tissues to hand.
At the start of the post, I said I felt anxious about the series. The reason being I don't want them to end! This novel ends in early 1944. How many more books can there be in the Shipyard Girls series? I am not quite ready to say goodbye to Polly, Rosie, Gloria, Martha, Dorothy, Angie and Helen just yet.