Two sagas to warm the winter nights by various authors – book reviews –
Draw the curtains, light the fire and cuddle up close with two super winter-warming sagas set in the early decades of the 20th century and full of hardship, drama, family and friendship.
Believing in Tomorrow
The hardships and challenges of girls and women in the early part of the 20th century come under the spotlight in a moving, gritty and gripping tale of love, loss and survival from one of the nation’s favourite saga queens.
Prepare to have your heartstrings pulled as committed Christian, animal lover and captivating storyteller Rita Bradshaw – whose raft of compelling novels includes Storm Child and The Winter Rose – sweeps us away on a rollercoaster journey filled with high emotion and life-changing drama.
Molly McKenzie, who lives with her family in the countryside near Newcastle, is only eleven years old in 1900 when her abusive, farmworker father Josiah McKenzie – known for his hands the size of cannonballs – beats her to within an inch of her life for sneaking out of the house to attend the Michaelmas Fair.
Molly is certain that he killed her only sister Kitty when she fell pregnant at fourteen and, terrified that one day she will die the same way, she escapes from the hovel she calls home and is taken in by kind fisherfolk in North Shields who find her sick and close to death.
They are the Mallard family – Jed and Enid, their two married daughters, and their three sons Harry, Rory and Matthew who live at home – and with them, she experiences the love of a family for the first time. Life is still hard for Molly but she is content in their care.
Time passes and Molly is looking ahead to a future with the boy she loves, but then a terrible tragedy rips her life apart. Once again she is cast adrift in an uncaring world, but Molly is made of stern stuff and is determined to survive.
In the male-dominated society of the early 1900s, Molly has to fight prejudice and hatred, and rejection comes from all sides. Can she hold fast and become the woman she is destined to be?
Tears will be shed and hearts broken and mended again in this harrowing but ultimately uplifting family saga which is filled with love and hate, humanity and inhumanity, compassion and cruelty, and never fails to impress with the sheer power of its emotional storytelling.
A determination to succeed against all odds, the sense of community and warm friendship that helps even the most oppressed to survive, and the strength of love to defeat malice and brutality are the driving forces for a novel which will delight Bradshaw’s army of fans.
(Pan, paperback, £7.99)
The Orphanage Girls Reunited
A group of girls who met when they were trapped by circumstances in the cruel confines of notorious London orphanage take centre stage again in the second book of an emotion-packed trilogy from favourite saga writer Mary Wood.
Inspired by her own early years living in the East End of London, Wood sweeps us back to 1912 and into the trials, tribulations and hard-fought victories of three friends who helped each other to survive the privations of a Bethnal Green orphanage.
These heartbreaking but also inspirational tales are full of the grit and hardship that have become hallmarks of a storyteller who writes straight from the heart. Wood, who lives between Blackpool and Spain, worked in the probation service in both Lancaster and Blackpool, and her hard-hitting and moving historical sagas reflect her own experiences with people from all walks of life, helping her to bring a rich authenticity to her writing.
Here, we meet up again with Ellen and Ruth who fear that they may never again find their good friend Amy after she was taken from the orphanage and put on a boat to Canada with the promise of a new and better life across the ocean.
Ellen, who was abandoned by her father for the second time and left scarred from her years at the orphanage, has finally found happiness and hope after being reunited with her long-lost grandmother at her house near Leeds.
Despite feeling loved and cared for her – particularly by her grandmother’s warm and kindly housekeeper Dilly – it cannot compensate for being torn apart from her beloved friends Ruth and Amy. And when a devastating encounter leaves Ellen broken and desperate, she is forced to fight her past demons.
Meanwhile, Ruth has found peace, building a new life as an actress and surrounded by new friends. But she still longs to be with Ellen and Amy after everything they endured together in the orphanage. Amy was shipped to Canada with hundreds of other orphans and Ruth fears that she has little hope of ever finding her.
One wish comes true when Ruth’s acting career leads her to Ellen but no sooner has the dust settled than war appears on the horizon. Friendship locked them into each other’s hearts forever but does this approaching conflict mean they are destined to never reunite?
Wood ratchets up the emotional temperature in this gripping tale which comes packed with heartbreak, drama, rich period detail, and the harsh realities of the early 20th century as Ruth and Ellen battle the slings and arrows of love, life and loss.
Written with insight, warmth and the empathy gained from her years working with a cross-section of society, Wood’s new story is a moving and enthralling rollercoaster from first page to last, and will leave readers longing for the final chapter of the girls’ turbulent lives.
(Pan, paperback, £7.99)