Experiencing The Action
Set in Birmingham in the 1920’s the country is still reeling from the effects of World War I and the Spanish influenza. Many women have lost their men folk. The returning servicemen did not always receive a hero’s welcome. Some were maimed, others had scars that were not so visible. “Many servicemen feel a measure of guilt that they have survived and left comrades… on the battlefield.” PTSD would be diagnosed today but people were less than sympathetic then. Returning servicemen would not necessarily want to relive their experiences – staying silent but suffering nightmares.
War altered the women too. Doing a man’s job strengthened their characters yet still they did not have the vote.
Memories mean the reader gets a taste of World War I. Despicable acts of sending white feathers leaves a nasty taste for the reader.
The reader experiences the world trying to get back on its feet. Little things like walking in the park brings immense pleasure. The people have nothing. They live hand to mouth in back to backs but there is a huge generosity of spirit that warms the reader’s heart.
Motherhood is important. The love of a mother for her child is a bond that cannot be broken.
Secrets and guilt threaten to tear a character apart. Some secrets must be hidden or society will judge and find the character guilty.
Having my roots in Birmingham, this novel was wonderful for me to read. I recognised most of the places mentioned from the Bull Ring to Cannon Hill to St Martins, Woolworths, the pet store… and so the list goes on. Having visited the back to backs in Hurst Street, I could even picture the living conditions.
I did not just read this book, I ‘experienced’ it and I loved it. I cannot wait to read more by Anne Bennett.