With her second book Susanna Bavin has cemented her place as one of the country’s leading family saga writers.
Following the success of her debut, The Deserter’s Daughter, it must have been quite a feat to come up with a story equally as good but, in my opinion, she’s produced something even better.
And I don’t say that lightly, as I loved her first book, but this one charmed me even more.
Here’s the blurb:
After losing all her family in the Great War, Nell is grateful to marry Stan Hibbert. However, five years on, she is just another back-street housewife, making every penny do the work of tuppence and performing miracles with scrag-end. When she discovers that Stan is leading a double-life, she runs away to make a fresh start.
Two years later, Nell has carved out a fulfilling new life for herself and her young children in Manchester, where her neighbours believe she is a respectable widow. But the past is hard to run from, and Nell must fight to protect the life she has made for herself and her children.
From the first page, Susanna pulls you into the backstreets of 1920s Manchester so that when you’re done you’ll be wanting to scrub your front doorstep and send your children out to play in the street with their mates (although no noisy games on a Sunday).
It’s a hard life, especially for a single mother, but you get a real sense of community as Nell’s neighbours pitch in to look after her children while she works – although no matter how hard she toils, she’ll never be allowed to earn as much as a man. Interesting that we are still having similar conversations today.
Along with Nell, there’s a wonderful cast, including swoon-worthy Jim, the solicitor turned window cleaner, Mrs Brent, who takes the family under her wing and later has her kindness repaid, and two lovely young characters in the shape of Alf and the beautifully named Posy.
Then there’s the villain. Susanna seems to have a particular skill for conjuring up nasty pieces of work and Edmund is up there with the best of them. Thinking about him still makes my blood run cold.
The story is so well written, with wonderful little details from the period adding to the colour of the tale.
Having learnt my lesson last time, when I carried on reading long after my bedtime, I gave myself some much needed ‘me time’ while Freya was at school to enjoy this book. I am so pleased I did because, once again, I couldn’t put it down – even to make myself some lunch (unheard of).
I’ve already pre-ordered her next book, The Sewing Room Girl. Hopefully I won’t have too long to wait.
Format: Libby (borrowed from Norfolk Library Service).
My rating: Five stars.