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Review of Chocolate Girls, a novel by Annie Murray.
The book I am reviewing 'Chocolate Girls' is a paperback novel by Annie Murray. The book contains 515 pages, was published by MacMillan in 2003, with a cover price of £6.99.
Chocolate Girls follows the lives of three workers at the Cadbury Chocolate factory, Bourneville. Edie, Ruby and Janet are all young women of their time with very different problems, lives and ambitions. The novel is starts in the period preceding the second world war and continues to it's climax in the 1960's.
Edie and Ruby are close friends and the two girls are employed on the production line of the factory. Edie comes from a small family ruled by a mother who has a cruel and callous streak, Ruby on the other hand, has a large brood of brothers and sisters and her home life is one of fun and laughter. Janet is a quiet refined girl who lives at home with her widowed mother, Frances. Janet and her mother are staunch members of the Quaker faith but little does Frances know that her daughter is in the middle of an affair with a married man. Janet is an office worker at the factory, as times goes by the lives of the three girls become more and more involved.
Edie marries her childhood sweetheart when she is nineteen, but the marriage is not successful, Edie loses her child due to miscarriage and feels that life is no longer worth living. Ruby's father dies and her mother descends into depression and more and more family responsibilities fall on Ruby's shoulders. Janet finds herself in a predicament that is not only life changing but brings to the fore her mother's skills as a nurse.
The outbreak of war means an end to chocolate production and the factory begins making other products. War also brings many changes to the personal lives of the central characters and as the story unfolds, Ruby, Edie, Janet and Frances find themselves living a totally different life. When Edie and Janet join the Volunteer bureau as ambulance drivers, Edie finds a child in a bombed out house. She asks her mother to help her by caring for the child temporarily but when she refuses, Edie takes the baby to Frances. The child's parents cannot be traced and this is the beginning of another major lifestyle change for the three girls.
The story unfolds as a fascinating saga of the life and world of women during the second world war and how life changed for ordinary people. The novel also gives a remarkably vivid insight into the emotional impact on the men who returned from war to find their womenfolk had not only managed perfectly well alone, but did not wish to return to normality. The plot covers the effects of the Holocaust on the survivors, Judaism and the fashion at the time for Jewish youngsters to move into the Israeli Kibbutz system.
The book is definitely what I would describe as a 'pick up, put down' novel, an ideal holiday book!
Annie Murray is the only child of an Army family. She was born in Wallingford, Berkshire and attended Oxford University. On graduating, Annie Murray moved to Birmingham where she took up employment with a charity. She later became a trainee journalist, married and had four children. She was an active member of several Birmingham based writing workshops. In 1991 she won a competition sponsored by 'SHE' magazine and Granada TV's 'This Morning'. Following this success Annie was approached by a literary agent and the rest, as they say is history.
Annie Murray had had 12 novels published, she mainly writes about characters and locations she knows well from her years in Birmingham. Annie Murray now lives in Reading.
A full list of books by Annie Murray can be found on her website.
Pricing and publisher
The cover price on my copy of this novel is £6.99. It can be purchased at www.amazon.co.uk for £4.79 new or from 1p used.
ISBN 0-330-49213 6
20 New Wharf Road
I found this to be a lightweight novel, but one with an interesting storyline, well drawn believable characters and enough twists and turns in the plot to keep my interest. It is not a novel of great literary importance but it is a book that portrays the emotions of the characters and their flawed natures in a very realistic and readable way. It compares very well to other books that I have read by the same author.
I enjoyed this novel and would certainly recommend it to others.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle1906 March 2009
Also on ciao.co.uk under the same name
I borrowed The Chocolate Girls from the library after reading a review on there about the novel. Although it wasn't the usually genre I read it sounded interesting and therefore well worth getting from the library.
The Chocolate Girls is set around the Second World War, and focuses on three girls who lead similar but very different lives through the book.
Edie is a newly widowed lady who longs for a child. When she unexpectedly finds herself bringing up a son her life changes forever.
Ruby is a care free girl who likes to have some freedom but doesn't want to get left behind. She finds herself marrying for the sake of it and before she knows it she has a child and her husband is too scared to deal with it.
Janet is a quiet girl who finds herself taken off the rails and into a situation she is scared of being in.
The three girls find their lives become intertwined through the book. Edie and Ruby have been friends for ages, but circumstances and the war will bring them both closer together and rip them apart.
The novel is set a lot around the Cadbury factory where all the girls work at some time during the book.
As the book takes you through the Second World War, it gives you a slight insight as to what life was like for people then. Reading about the girl's emotions and lives and how everything changes before their eyes really pulled me into their world, and I was thinking how lucky I was to be born in a different era.
War novels aren't usually my first choice of book, and I found this novel difficult to get started with, but it soon picked up the pace and had me reading chapter after chapter to find out the next thing that would happen in the book.
The whole book spans over ten years and more. The plot was great and thrilling up until the last fifty pages where I found it dragged on towards the ending. This was a shame as I was starting to enjoy the type of novel I was reading.
I found that Murray had done a great job at describing the characters and there were certain scenes in the book that were explained in such great detail that you really felt you were in the page with the characters, living their lives at that time too. There was so much heart ache to have to read through the pages, but that the same time snippets of joy were found too.
The plot didn't contain too much mystery as it was pretty easy to see where the plot was going to follow and what the ending would be. I didn't mind this as it wasn't set out to be a thriller, more an adaptation of the Second World War and how the people who lived in it survived.
Overall I'm glad I loaned the book, but glad also I didn't buy it as I wouldn't want to read it again.
Price: £4.79 (Amazon)
Finally I get to write a book review on a book that enthralled me from start to finish. The fact that this book is written and centred around an area not to far from my home is an added bonus.
The book I will now review is "Chocolate girls, by Annie Murray".
It is rare for me to read books just because they are written by a certain author, I prefer to read as much as I can regardless of author, but Annie Murray is one author I know I will get a good book from. So after my friend lending me this through my works book share scheme I was excited to get started, I was not disappointed.
The story is centred around three young girls who all work and meet at the Cadburys factory in Bourneville.
The year is 1939 and everyone is still a little blasé about the so called impending war, the young men are getting ready for conscript and the girls are doing their damndest to live what is potentially their last few weeks with their loved ones.
One of the main characters Edie is working her last week at the Cadburys branch, not through choice, but as she intends on marrying her sweetheart soon she will no longer be allowed to work there. Her best friend and work colleague Ruby tries to rally her round, knowing her working life will never be the same again.
Edie marries and for the first few weeks everything is bliss, then something happens that will devastate and change Edie's life forever.
After returning to work at Cadburys, which has now relaxed it's rules and is working in part as a munitions plant, the pair meet and become friendly with an office temp called Janet who they become great friends with.
This friendship will last the tests and tribulations of time and their lives, through the war and beyond.
I cannot recommend this book high enough. The things that these three very different women go through in their lives is unimaginable, and yet you still feel the stiff English upper lip, the camaraderie and the friendship that develops and carries on through the trials and tribulations of war, through to there dotage. Also it covers aspects of the holocaust, that while it is not pleasant reading is very interesting none the less.
I would like to say that this book has the feel good factor, and although the ending is superb and uplifting, the rest of the book can get quite dark in places. I am not ashamed to admit it actually made me cry on three separate occasions, having said this though I would and probably will read it over again.
As I stated earlier this was a "borrow" but after checking on Amazon, these are readily available, new they are around the £4.59 range, but second hand they can be bought from 1p plus postage and packaging.
Please, please, please try this book, it is probably now in my top five, it has joy, laughter, sadness, heartache all entwined within the confines of a small terraced house, containing three best friends. Perfection!
For more information visit - www.amazon.co.uk
Thanks for reading x