The Bluebird Girls by Rosie Archer - book review: This warm and appealing story is the perfect choice for winter nights
Welcome back to Gosport, the Hampshire town with a long and distinguished naval and maritime history which has become familiar to an army of readers thanks to the wonderful novels of Rosie Archer, one of its proudest inhabitants.
After a series of compelling novels featuring the resilient women who set to work on the south coast of England during the Second World War, Archer transports us into the lives of a group of singers whose fates and fortunes play out against the real-life events of 1940.
Brimming with nostalgia, romance, drama, friendships and the popular songs of wartime, the first book in Archer’s new Forces’ Sweethearts series is full of the author’s trademark warmth and wisdom, and the emotions and experiences that have shaped her own life.
In the final months of 1939, three young women in Gosport are about to get the break of a lifetime. Rainey Bird, Ivy Sparrow and Bea Herron all love to sing and have voices that give joy to all those who hear them.
For sixteen-year-old, red-headed beauty Rainey, music and singing have been a solace during the upheaval of escaping Portsmouth for a new life in Gosport with her mother Jo, away from her abusive and bullying dad Archie who has made her mother’s life a misery for years.
Seventeen-year-old Ivy sees music and singing as her best chance of making a life away from Gosport, her home in a flat over the local cafe and a dead-end job. Her mother Della, known as the local ‘tart,’ is determined that Ivy should have a better future than her own.
Bea, older than her two friends, lives in a cramped house with her mother Maud, her handsome brother Eddie and their ailing and elderly grandfather. Bea finds a confidence when she sings that she cannot get from anything else.
The three of them sing in a choir run by the strict but kind Alice Wilkes. The choir provides a couple of hours of stardust each week, away from school and work and family worries, but when war breaks out dreams must be put on hold.
It seems that local pantomimes and charity shows are as far as the girls will be able to go, despite Mrs Wilkes’ faith in their talents. But then a mysterious stranger arrives in Gosport with a proposition that just might change their lives...
Archer brings to vivid life the hardships and privations of the tough war years, and the young women’s rollercoaster journey from school days to stars of the local stage. The three friends make a charismatic trio, each with their own hopes and dreams, and each determined to forge success as singers.
The Bluebird Girls is rich in period detail and, as always, passion, drama, friendship and family take star billing, making this warm and appealing story the perfect choice for winter nights.
(Quercus, hardback, £20.99)