Book reviews: Cosy up with two family sagas from Quercus Books

Hardship in the fells of 1930s County Durham and intrigue at a Second World War munitions factory are just two compelling new books from Quercus this September.

Nobodys Child byElizabeth Gill
Nobodys Child byElizabeth Gill

Nobody’s Child by Elizabeth Gill

Two traveller sisters from the wild countryside of County Durham face hardship, hunger and an uncertain future when they lose their parents and their home.

Consumed with grief and surrounded by hostility, can the teenagers survive the tough times ahead in 1930s England and hold tight to the family ties that bind them together?

Elizabeth Gill, author of over 30 books set in and around her native Tyneside, works her storytelling magic in a moving and gritty family saga of adversity and hope and love and loyalty that will delight her army of devoted fans.

On Christmas Day in 1930, Kath and Ella Watson are living with their parents in an empty house close to Castle Bank Colliery on snow-covered Durham Fell tops. They have been forced to take shelter there from their travellers’ wagon because their mother is gravely ill.

Kath is seventeen and her father believes she should have married long ago, particularly as she has been courted by the likes of rich traveller Will Hern. But Kath has seen the chaotic life of traveller women with babies, forced to raise their youngsters inside a cramped wagon.

Their mother Rose wants a better life for her two daughters but when she dies on Christmas Day morning, their father is overcome by grief and sets fire to the family’s wooden wagon, reducing it to a heap of ashes.

When the police arrive to tell them that not only has their father died in an accident after riding off on his horse but also that they must leave the house where they have been sheltering, the two sisters are left bereft and virtually penniless.

With winter closing in around them, and facing the hostility of locals who are suspicious of Gypsies, the girls strike out to find their way in a harsh landscape which sets them on a collision course with the wealthy Banks family of nearby Golden Hill Hall, local farmer Jake Sutherland and Will Hern, the man who would still have Kath as his wife.

Using her trademark warmth, experience and wisdom, Gill captures the essence of the hardy folk of the north-east in a story brimming with drama, romance, rich period detail and vivid characters.

Written from the heart and with a seductive sense of time and place, Nobody’s Child is the perfect read for autumn nights…

(Quercus, hardback, £19.99)

The Factory Girls by Rosie Archer

Friends in need, flying bombs and explosive revelations… it’s time to head back to the adventures and misadventures of Gosport’s ‘canary girls.’

The real-life munitions workers at Priddy’s Hard, the Royal Navy Armament Depot in Hampshire, who helped to arm the Allies’ D-Day invasion fleet, are the inspiration behind this compelling series from Gosport author Rosie Archer.

In the follow-up to The Munitions Girls and The Canary Girls, Archer sweeps us away again to England in 1944 and into the hearts and minds of the women who packed shells and bullets with sulphurous chemicals that made their skin and hair turn yellow.

Archer pays tribute to the dangerous and dirty work undertaken by the 2,500 women at the factory during the Second World War in stories that prove no matter how hard the times, despite bombing, short rations, cruel men and unwanted pregnancy, friendship will pull you through.

In autumn of 1944, V-1 flying bombs, known as doodlebugs, are the latest threat to war-battered Gosport. And at Priddy’s Hard munitions factory, Em Earle is about to suffer a threat to her livelihood that comes from much nearer home.

Meanwhile, local crook and black marketeer Samuel Golden is back and up to his old tricks as he tries to find ways to exploit the hardships of local people for his own gain.

As well as Samuel’s unwanted attentions, Em has to deal with some huge revelations from within her own family. Her daughter Lizzie is pregnant, and a strange woman has turned up on Em’s doorstep claiming to be her sister.

Em is excited but cannot help feeling wary. Could this woman be too good to be true? Once again it will be up to the girls from the bomb factory to rally round and support one of their own.

The triumphs and disasters of this entertaining, close-knit group of friends spring to life in a nostalgic story packed with drama, tension, passion and the grim realities of life in wartime England.

Archer has her finger firmly on the pulse of the munitions workers… their hardships, their struggles and the determination to win wars in both their personal lives and on the bigger stage.

Romance with a gritty edge…

(Quercus, paperback, £6.99)