Elaine Roberts comes to the blog today with the first in a series focusing on the ladies that work in a London Bookshop, all taking place just before the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
The Foyles Bookshop Girls
An interesting title focusing on several young women and their families, all connected by friendship and social status, as the girls work in a popular and very busy bookshop in London. Alice, Molly and Victoria have been friends for years, all living solidly upper middle-class lives. Alice and her sister Lily couldn’t be more different: Alice is more circumspect and proper, Lily is prone to speak her mind and get into ‘trouble’ – protesting for the vote, woman’s equality, social equality, you name it. Of course, with a very rigid and dictatorial father at home, constantly nattering on about duty to country, the need for war, and a requirement for rigid adherence to ‘how he wants things to be’ using temper, unspoken threats and menacing body language. Alice’s two brothers, the eldest, enlisting as soon as possible much to his father’s delight and mother’s dismay, the youngest yet too young to enlist is desperately struggling to gain his father’s approval.
When you add in the stories of Victoria as she struggles to keep the household afloat, looking after her younger brother and sister for the past years after the sudden and tragic death of their parents four years earlier, and Molly with her wholly inappropriate boyfriend with his constant flirting and eyes for Alice, there are plenty of ways for this tale of their lives at the onset of war to go. And Roberts uses insets of place, scent and political upheaval, the struggles and worries of the women as they find ‘ways’ to be helpful and useful to the war effort, and the little moments of escape from the worries as the girls do their best to maintain friendships and support systems through all of the changes.
More a story of growth as the three young women come into adulthood, accepting more responsibilities, struggling with shortages and worries, pride and anger, even the constant dangers from nighttime air raids, bombs and the ever-depressing news reports, censored letters from the front (when they come) and the general unease as Alice’s father is a dyed in the wool supporter of the war, unable and unwilling to hear or be concerned with the women’s worries for their sons and brothers. He’s also got a huge secret that displays in his overly brash displays of bravado, a need for supremacy, and the general silence (if avoidance isn’t possible) that his wife and daughters display in his presence.
What emerges here is the full richness of characters that are very much of the time, and the adjustments and approaches that they take in the upending of societal norms, war-time restrictions, dangers and worries. Alice comes into her own, seeing her life and her perspectives change greatly, even with the small struggles she has with moving on despite it al. Her sister Lily’s ability to find an outlet for her more ‘progressive’ views, although holding deep anger toward her father and his apparent uncaring and rigid stances, and even their father’s growth and awakening as the true horrors of war and the soldiers returning broken and ever-changed, will find the war and the struggles and changes it brings will change them all inexorably.
Title: The Foyles Bookshop Girls
Author: Elaine Roberts
Genre: Historic Woman's Fiction, Pre World War 1, Setting: Britain
Published by: Aria
Published on: 1 June, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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It's 1914 and the threat of war with Germany hangs over the country.
There's a strong bond between Alice, Victoria, who is heartbroken, and the vivacious Molly, which stems back to their childhood, and continues as they work together in Foyles Bookstore.
When Alice's underage brother, Charles, joins up, her boyfriend, Freddie, consoles her. He declares his love and wants to marry at the earliest opportunity, but her excitement is ripped away when he admits to signing up and leaves the following day.
Will love and friendships survive the trials, tribulations and the battles ahead?
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.