Monday, 1 June 2015

Secrets of the Singer Girls by Kate Thompson

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” 

Many of the fictional books I’ve read regarding the Second World War centre around the role of women during the war. It was such a pivotal time in British history, and everybody had to band together to survive. 

Whilst most men were drafted to fight, women took up jobs they would not have had before, including factory work. It must have been quite a balancing act to manage families and work at once in those days. 

My own Great-Grandmother got a job in an ammunitions factory and my Nan, a baby then, was later evacuated during the height of the war. So I was quite excited to read this book and get another fictional taste of London life during this turbulent period in history. 

Young Poppy Percival arrives at a clothing factory in East London, after being sent away from her former countryside employment in disgrace for undisclosed reasons. She is soon welcomed into East End life by the larger than life characters of her fellow factory workers. 

There is flame haired Sal, who misses her evacuated sons but dreads the return of an abusive husband. Stunning Daisy whose romance with a coloured GI may get her into trouble, and her hardworking sister Vera who tries to hold her family and the factory together despite her own problems. 

There are many issues and struggles for the women to overcome on top of the war and it makes for engrossing reading as you slowly unravel all their secrets.  All the women are so well conceived and you end up feeling for all of them in their individual situations. Also, having so many different lives portrayed in the story, you get to see the war from all kinds of perspectives. 

I learnt a few things about the war that I didn’t know previously. For example the tragedy that occurred at Bethnal Green Tube Station in 1943 was an event that I’d never even heard of before and the way it was included into the story reiterated what a dangerous time it was in London. 

As well as the dramatic storylines, the sense of camaraderie in the factory shines through and adds the cheer and heart to the novel. Included in the book are some extras from the author detailing some of the fact behind the fiction which makes the story even more realistic. With great characters and emotive writing, this is a lovely and poignant piece of historical fiction set during World War Two. 

For a taste of nostalgia, below is a playlist of most (if not all) songs featured in the book. I hope you enjoy it. 

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