Review of 'An Unsuitable Mother', a novel by Sheelagh Kelly.
I am reviewing the paperback version of the book, published by Harper in 2009, 672 pages, ISBN 978-0007211593. Genre-Family Saga. Cover price £6.99.
I chose this book on recent visit to the public library as I had read one or two of this authors novels in the past and enjoyed them. 'An Unsuitable Mother' had an interesting sounding plot synopsis on the rear of the jacket, which compounded my choice.
This is a memorable and well crafted family saga with a strong plot and believable characters.
An Unsuitable Mother covers the life of Nell (Eleanor), the adopted only child of Wilfred and Thelma Spottiswood. The story begins at the outbreak of the Second World War when Nell is eighteen years old.
The Spottiswoods are much older than the parents of her peers and consequently rather strict in their dealings with Nell. When Nell decides she wants to leave her safe office job and train to be an axillary nurse in order to do her bit for the war effort, her parents are less than happy. They fear that their sheltered and protected daughter will mix with unsavoury people and fall into the wrong company. Little do they realise that Nell has a secret life already, which includes a romance with a young soldier, Bill. Nell knows that her parents would be devastated to discover the truth.
Nell begins her nursing training and finds a good friend and companion in Beata Kilmaster, an older woman who has left domestic service in order to nurse. Beata comes from a large extended family who welcome Nell into their ranks.
When Nell's secret liaison ends with the death of Bill during active service, she finds herself in a situation beyond her control.
The plot then develops into an emotion wrenching account of a young girls trauma and heartache, which results in a mind numbingly cruel decision by Nell's parents. Unable to forgive her parents, Nell leaves their home and decides to live her life as she wants to. To her horror, the night she leaves, her home town of York is decimated by a bombing raid, in which her parents both perish.
Nell has no option but to throw herself into her nursing career. Her life takes many twists and turns before she finds her true vocation and she is fraught with hardship and pain, hard work and happiness. Her friends, patients and colleagues are her life and her extended family is forgotten.
The plot takes the reader through the compelling roller-coaster ride that is Nell's life. The plot follows her fortunes over many decades from the 1930's to the 1990's where we meet Nell as a lady in her sixties.
~~About the Author~~
Sheelagh Kelly was born in York and has lived in the city all her life, apart from a 3 year gap, when she lived in Australia. She left school at fifteen and began work as a book-keeper. She has written for pleasure since she was a small child, but not until 1980 were the seeds sown for her first novel, 'A Long Way from Heaven', when she developed an interest in genealogy and local history and decided to trace her ancestors' story.
She has since completed many best-selling sagas, most of which are set in or around the city of York.
~~Availability and Cost~~
My copy is as previously mentioned a library book with the jacket price of £6.99.
A quick web search brought up the following stockists and prices for 'An Unsuitable Mother', obviously I cannot guarantee that these will be relevant on other dates!
www.amazon.co.uk £5.49 or from 0.01p used.
~~My Thoughts and Conclusion~~
This is a remarkable novel in as much as the plot spans such a large period of time. As the story progresses the reader sees Nell, the central character, mature from a young girl to a dependable and respected nurse. The plot then takes you through Nell's life to her late 60's where as a grandmother, she is still trying to achieve her dreams. This is an excellent example of a family saga, the impact of lies, deceits and war on a family is very richly described.
Sheelagh Kelly writes with deep feeling, evoking all the warmth of the people and the hardship they faced in a city under threat of bombing raids. Her characters are well rounded, believable and on the whole likeable.
I found this to be an absorbing novel and one that I will definitely re-read.
I would recommend 'An Unsuitable Mother' to others.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle1906 February 2010
N.B. My reviews may be found on other review sites under the same user name.