Tag Archives: 1950s

#BookReview ‘Pattern of Shadows’ by @judithbarrow77 #historical #WW2

The first instalment of Judith Barrow’s Mary Howarth series is Pattern of Shadows, a historical romance set in World War Two Lancashire that explores the  challenges and new opportunities for women in wartime. Set against a male-dominated background where the aspirations of working class women have traditionally been put second, war brings change and some people adapt better than others. Judith BarrowMary is a nursing sister in the hospital attached to a prisoner of war camp, nursing German soldiers captured and injured in action. Some people find that challenging but for Mary it is a satisfying and fulfilling job. Things get complicated when she attracts the attention of two men who could not be more different. One night Mary meets Frank Shuttleworth, a guard at the POW camp and, thanks to a combination of unforeseen circumstances, runs to a shelter with him during a bombing raid. This evening has far-reaching consequences for Mary and her flighty younger sister Ellen. There are tensions at home too with her argumentative irascible father and defeated mother, as Tom her older brother is in prison as a conscientious objector and her younger brother, injured fighting, must now work as a coal miner. Meanwhile a new German doctor arrives at the hospital. With two choices in front of her, Mary must decide whether to do what is expected or defy convention, to be loyal to her family who are not always loyal to her, or to be selfish and do something for herself.
A well-paced story combining stalking, prejudice, domestic violence, homophobia, poverty and family strife, Mary is the only unselfish, balanced person in her family. Will she finally put herself first? This is at times a grim story set at a difficult time and at first I worried this was misery fiction and longed for an occasional bright light. But the setting and time period are so well researched I soon relaxed into the story as the character of Mary and her predicament drew me in. I admire her stubbornness, her selflessness and loyalty, above all her bravery. Sometimes she is misguided, always well-intentioned, I look forward to reading more about Mary in Changing Patterns, the sequel.

If you like this, try:-
After the Bombing’ by Clare Morrall
Homeland’ by Clare Francis
The Aftermath’ by Rhidian Brook

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
PATTERN OF SHADOWS by @judithbarrow77 #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3Ul via @SandraDanby

Book review: The Long Drop

Denise MinaGlasgow, 1950s. Three men meet in bar. One leaves. The remaining two men talk and drink until the early hours. They are unlikely drinking companions. A businessman, and a criminal. What are they talking about? Which one is telling the truth, or are they both lying? The Long Drop by Denise Mina is her fictional version of the night of Monday December 2, 1957 and the subsequent murder trial. It is a chilling story. Peter Manuel was a real murderer in Glasgow and the Burnside Affair happened, which makes this such an unsettling read. A woman, her sister and daughter have been killed, the girl was also raped: this is William Watt’s family, his wife, his daughter, his sister-in-law.

Manuel, a known criminal, writes to Laurence Dowdall, Watt’s solicitor, to say he knows the location of the murder weapon, a gun, and so Dowdall arranges the meeting at Whitehall’s Restaurant/Lounge. Suspected by police of murdering his own family, William Watts meets criminal Manuel desperate for answers. But for a naïve, boasting businessman, he is keeping strange company. All is not as it seems.

Mina populates her story with living/breathing Glasgow in the 1950s. If you have been to Glasgow, Mina’s words bring it alive. It you don’t know Glasgow, your imagination conjures up a crystal clear picture. “This city is commerce unfettered. It centres around the docks and the river, and it is all function. It dresses like the Irishwomen: had to toe in black, hair covered, eyes down.” Dowdall drives a maroon Vauxhall Velox.

This is the first book by Denise Mina which I have read. I really like her writing style. Concise, why use six words in a sentence when one or two conveys the meaning?

Read more about the real Peter Manuel here.

If you like this, try:-
‘An Uncertain Place’ by Fred Vargas
‘Little Boy Blue’ by MJ Arlidge
‘The Nationalist’ by Campbell Hart

‘The Long Drop’ by Denise Mina [UK: Harvill Secker] Buy at Amazon

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE LONG DROP by Denise Mina #books via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2pR