The Archers: Ambridge At War by Catherine Miller: Ideal for both Archers aficionados and lovers of wartime sagas - book review -
Seventy years ago, the BBC broadcasted a radio drama which was billed as ‘an everyday story of country folk.’
Little did they know that The Archers was destined to become the world’s longest-running drama, an icon of British popular culture with millions of listeners tuning in to every episode, and listed by a panel of broadcasting industry experts in 2019 as the second-greatest radio programme of all time.
Partly established with the aim of educating farmers following the Second World War, The Archers quickly captured the hearts and minds of the population at large with its warm and cosy stories about the lives of families in the fictional rural village of Ambridge.
And now to mark the programme’s landmark anniversary, novelist Catherine Miller brings us an enthralling and revealing new book following the lives, loves and dramas of the families of Ambridge starting in 1940… eleven years before it all began.
It’s midnight at the turn of the year 1940, war has broken out, and Walter Gabriel speaks the same line that opened the very first radio episode… ‘And a Happy New Year to you all!’
For Ambridge, a village in Borsetshire in the heart of the English countryside, this year will bring change in ways no one was expecting. From the Pargetters at Lower Loxley to the loving, hard-working Archer family at Brookfield Farm, the war will be hard for all of them.
And the New Year brings the arrival of evacuees to Ambridge, shaking things up in the close-knit rural community.
As the villagers embrace the wartime spirit, families that listeners have known and loved for generations face an uphill battle to keep their secrets hidden... especially as someone is intent on revealing those secrets to the whole village.
Archers fans will adore meeting some of the programme’s most familiar and best-loved characters in the years before they became household names. From Walter Gabriel, in mourning for his father, to Jack Archer in his wartime uniform, and Alec Pargetter becoming embroiled in an illicit affair, this is a fascinating portrait of Ambridge at war.
With a crime mystery at its heart, intriguing back stories for some of the star players, and lots of rich period detail to bring to life the challenges facing the villagers during the dangers and privations of the war years, Miller remains faithful to the spirit and eternal charm of Ambridge.
Well plotted, sympathetically written, and with plenty of humour and heated drama to keep the home fires burning, this is ideal for both Archers aficionados and lovers of wartime sagas.
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £8.99)