Elaine Roberts returns to the blog today with the second in The Foyles Girls series, three childhood friends navigating their way through life and the struggle of wartime in early 20th century London.
The Foyles Bookshop Girls at War
Alice, Victoria and Molly have all managed to survive the first two years of World War I, the losses and struggles, their friendship and families, as well as their work at the Foyles Bookshop keeping them connected. But, things are changing and with Alice working the shop and working for the ambulance services, Victoria worrying about her sisters as they’ve joined the police, and Molly mired in guilt with the loss of Tony, killed at the front, they’ve all had struggles to get through. But, it seems as if Molly feels she has it worse: the class differences between Molly, Alice and Victoria had never been a ‘thing’ between them, but her frustration with her parents’ ongoing determination to work hard and their deference to both Alice and Victoria’s families eats at her. She wants, or thinks she does, to make a difference for the war effort, and takes a job at a munitions factory – without telling her parents, and with lying to her friends. They know something is up with Molly, but questions are either fobbed off or ignored entirely – and their worry for Molly increases as time goes by and she’s not told her parents.
Meanwhile, at the factory, Molly finds that she isn’t ‘fitting in’ there, being seen as “posh’ and a bit of a threat with her manners, her clothing and the seeming interest the factory boss seems to take in her. It’s a struggle- the work is hard, her commute by bicycle takes her across London, and the dangers of the munitions factory, and her ever-present exhaustion are wearing on her. While she and her friends used to chat regularly at work and make dates for chocolate cake and tea, there’s a remove as they are alternately frustrated with and worried for her. And, honestly, Molly is often acting a right stroppy little madam, making snap judgments, sharp comments and bemoaning her own situation – one that she chose. It wasn’t easy to understand or empathize with the level of strain and struggle that she was facing, and the discounting of her own will with Andrew’s behavior was frustrating – times have so changed, despite it all.
But, an explosion at the factory that caused destruction of homes and buildings, losses of life and a sharp comeuppance to Molly in recognizing and realizing her true feelings, when everything came to a head she’s faced with her utterly selfish and quite spoilt behavior. Yes, she was called that frequently – quite rightly too – and you could see her stamping her feet in denial – much as one would expect. Fortunately, her better nature did win out, and she discovered not only her own strength but the reasons her parents had sacrificed so much – offering her more options for her life then they ever assumed or saw possible for themselves. For me, Molly was my least favorite of the three friends – with Alice’s story there was a sense of ‘already grown up’, where Molly was far more a child pretending to be grown. And, her lying to her family and friends, not just to herself, was a difficult hurdle to overcome – if you’re out at 5 am – and not back until 7 – who isn’t going to wonder? It was another marker of her youth and inexperience with deception, even as she was fighting shadows all the time. Even as I didn’t engage with Molly as well as I expected, the story of the work in the factories, the dangers, smells and struggles, and even the weight of expectations from self, parents, country and the ‘man on the street’ were clearly presented and accessible, and this was a lovely story.
Title: The Foyles Bookshop Girls at War
Author: Elaine Roberts
Series: The Foyles Girls #2
Also in this series: Christmas at the Foyles Bookshop
Genre: British, Friendship, Historic Woman's Fiction, Setting: Britain, World War II
Published by: Aria
Published on: 15 January, 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Working at the Foyles bookshop was Molly Cooper's dream job. But with the country at war she's determined to do her bit. So Molly gathers her courage, and sets off for the East End and her first day working at Silvertown munitions factory...
It's hard manual labour, and Molly must face the trials and tribulations of being the 'new girl' at the munitions factory, as well as the relentless physical work.
The happy-ever-afters Molly read about in the pages of her beloved books have been lost to the war. And yet the munitions girls unite through their sense of duty and friendships that blossom in the most unlikely of settings...
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.