The lost days of summer...
Why choose this one?
I am enjoying WWII based books at present. The blurb appealed to me and the illustration to the front cover drew me in - I find some books do that and it can influence my final decision if I am wavering.
Due to war time commitments and for her own safety, Nell, is sent on a long journey from Liverpool to Anglesey to live with her estranged Aunt Kath. Nell's mother, Trixie has been lured by the WAAF and could not join if she had dependents. A strained and uncomfortable time awaits Nell at Ty Hen - the farm that she will now call home. Due to unpleasantness in the past between Aunt Kath and Trixie the atmosphere at Ty Hen is icy to begin with. Kath is a proud, strong and domineering woman - a force to be reckoned with since being widowed some years ago. Over time Nell and Kath become amicable and even begin to like each other. Farm work is hard but the surroundings capture young Nell's imagination and before long she cannot ever imagine wanting to be in Liverpool again - that is not all that gains her attention in the mysterious location. The relationships that develop between Nell and two young men will cause much heart ache and worry and she will mature quickly. She will have choices to make that concern the young men and her Aunt Kath who she has grown to love - though one choice is made easier than she would ever have expected.
A Welsh retreat...
Based in Wales the first thing to note about this book is the engaging use of some of the Welsh language - this added a dimension to the prose and I felt like I learned something new. Meeting Nell for the first time in the hustle and; sweaty, bustle of a train felt strained and tense - this was indeed what was intended and a good representation of how it must have felt to be in that situation during the war.
I felt so sorry for Nell who was abandoned by her mother, Trixie, even though she protested. She was an angry and lost little thing initially - though it soon became apparent that she had compassion and strength. Her traits became obvious from that very first chapter - kind hearted, tenacious, loyal, honest to name a few. I liked her very much.
Aunt Kath gave the most frosty reception on that cold and dark night - almost undetectable in her carriage that was stood waiting for Nell's arrival. She made no effort to be seen and when Nell eventually found her she was blunt and unkind to the girl. At this time I had no knowledge of the past and what had taken place between the sisters so it seemed very cold hearted and I felt no relationship with Kath. Nell was fifteen years of age.
Nell would be helping out on the farm - Ty Hen - as a land girl would have done and this interested me very much. Due to the fact that they grew all of their own produce they were self sufficient and therefore they ate well. Food was sold for the population too. It was hard work for all on the farm - long days in all weather tending to the animals and crops. Making butter and baking bread. The days were full. The descriptive talent of this author came into it's own here - I could sense the bitter cold air, see the long dark days and smell the odours that came from the shippon when the cows were being milked. I gained a good perception of the environment and all of my senses were engaged.
They had help in the form of Eifion - an old man and Bryn a young lad. Bryn taught Nell Welsh during the working day and soon took a real shine to her - unknown to her at this time he was telling friends and family that she was HIS girl. She would not be likely to find out as the farm was isolated and not many people paid a visit. I developed an understanding of how few people Nell made acquaintance with and could empathise with how lonely she was. She attached herself to Bryn because he was the only soul near to her age that she had contact with.
Even though Bryn and Eifion are support characters and remain two dimensional I did get a good idea of the kind of people they were and developed a liking for them both. This is probably because the characters all become close knit like a family - they seem to genuinely care for each other and even Kath began to defrost a little as the prose developed. I began to warm to her quickly once I saw the little cracks appearing and her big heart making an appearance.
There are more support characters - one more important than the others is Hywell. Initially a mystery to Nell and in time a good companion when circumstances dictate that she is all alone again. I got such a good feel for the traits of all the other characters and developed a warmth and empathy for them. It is difficult to choose between Nell and Kath regarding who the main protagonist is - for me they are both main characters. I expected the prose to surround the experiences of Nell alone and Kath to remain two dimensional but as the story progresses whole chapters are relevant to Kath's incredible tale.
This story is about two women from different generations who experience love and loss. Similar in some ways though very different. The book spans two wars - The Great War WWI and World War II. The devastation and change that these periods instilled was massive. Throwing folk together who might otherwise never have met - strong bonds developed - love flourished - and love was lost. Nell may have been parted from her mother and her home in Liverpool but in their place she will find more beauty, love and security than she has ever known. Kath who had developed a very hard exterior will thaw by the end of this book.
Katie Flynn....would I seek out more of her work?
Yes I would. I did not know what to expect from this book as the title didn't really give much away. At the end of the book I realised that the title relates to a character that I didn't think it would. The book is not fast paced but it held my attention well and I was dearly wanting to know what was going to happen next. It is not all passion - though there is a romantic element. There is a fair amount of conflict and hate within the themes that were portrayed realistically. An air of mysteriousness and magic is touched upon and the conclusion to this theme is very satisfactory - it is not whimsical and I found it to be believable. Katie has done her research well and the descriptions regarding war time in Liverpool and the country are beautifully done - I got a real feel for what the devastation would have been like. I liked the way that the relationship developed slowly and tentatively between the two main protagonists - it was heart warming. The friendships that Nell and Kath have both had are intriguing - especially Kath's and as the book neared the end I was not able to put it down. What emerges at the end of this prose is incredibly satisfying and was totally unexpected - I did not guess.
Job well done Katie!
This is a book that I have really enjoyed. More than anything it held my interest. The war time theme, the love interests, the relationship between Nell and Kath - these were my favourite parts. I could identify the dialects through the prose - Welsh and Liverpool. The environment became very familiar to me in my minds eye and the characters became like family to me. The traits of these two women were wholly believable and I warmed to them both. Both had compassion even though Kath took a while to reveal this quality. Both have tenacity and show great strength which I like in a female character. Some twists and turns in the book keep the interest whilst at the same time portraying farm routine clearly so that I had no doubt about how much effort and sweat went into maintaining the momentum. I finished the book with a smile on my face and a warm feeling inside - a well structured prose with a creative plot that kept me wanting more.
I take one thing from this book - LIVE FOR THE DAY.
Not fast paced but a page turner never the less.
Thank you for reading also published on Ciao.