There are many, many reasons why I love social media. I could probably go on all day as to why, but one simple reason is that it gives me the ability to talk to people that I might not normally talk to. Not just friends I've made, but people I see on TV, read about in newspapers, or whose books I have written. That's exactly what happened with Carol Rivers who tweeted me one to day to say thank you for a review I had written of one of her books – I've actually written two before Lily of Love Lane and Lizzie of Langley Street.
We got chatting over twitter, as you do, and she then asked if she could have my postal address so she could send me a copy of her latest book A Wartime Christmas. I jumped at the chance, especially since my mum and I had been chatting only a couple of days before about how much we both enjoyed a good old saga story and we'd been saying how much we'd both enjoyed Carol's other books. The Second World War and the role of the women and their families that remained at home during it is a period of history that fascinated me and always had done. Hence I was particularly keen to read this one.
A Wartime Christmas is, as the title suggests, set in wartime again in the East End of London – specifically on the Isle of Dogs. Kay Lewis lives there with her husband Alan and friend Vi, whilst her young son Alfie has been sent to live with his Aunt and Uncle in the Hertfordshire countryside to avoid the Blitz. The book covers Alfie returning home to London and then Alan going away to serve his country and Kay trying to make Christmas 1941 as pleasant as possible for her family.
The thing that really struck a chord with me and this book was the fact that when Alfie was sent away to Hertfordshire he much have just been about the age that Master C is now. I can't for the life of me imagine what it must be like to send your child away like that, but at the same time I know that I also wouldn't want to put his life in any unnecessary danger either. Master C is changing so much every week at this age and it must have been so difficult for mothers not to see their children grow up whilst they were separated. When I read the chapters about Kay and Alan travelling to see Alfie I have to admit that they made me very teary and I found them very emotional.
The second thing that I found fascinating about this book was the way in which the Bethnal Green tube station disaster that took place during the war becomes part of the story. That night 173 people (most of them women and children) were crushed to death when there was a rush of people trying to get down the steps to the station which was used as a shelter from the bombings. I remember several years ago seeing an article on the BBC London news about how a plaque was finally being put up at the tube station to mark the people who had lost their lives in that night. What I hadn't realised before that article was that the whole incident was covered up at the time as a way of not wanting to worry Londoners or to dampen the morale of people. In the book this cover up features as part of the story and it really made me realise just how confusing and frightening things must have been in wartime – not only from the threat of bombs, but also not being able to get clear information about what was going on around them.
I thoroughly enjoyed A Wartime Christmas and it really did capture perfectly for me a period in history which fascinates me – especially the role of housewives and mothers at that time. You could say that the title is a bit of a red herring as it's not the case that the whole book is set at Christmas time, just part of the story. I may be writing this review at Christmas time (with the Snowman soundtrack filtering in through from the next room where LMC is watching it on TV) but that's mainly because I now finally have time to catch up with some book reviews rather than it being a Christmas book.
What reading this has made me keen to do is track down more of Carol Rivers' books as they really are gripping books and I love feeling so engrossed in a period of history in the way that they do. If I was going to be really organised I'd even try to read them all in chronological order so that I can get all the periods of history straight in my head. That might be asking a bit much for someone as disorganised as me though!
Disclaimer: Although I was sent a copy of this book by Carol Rivers she did not specifically ask for a review to be written. This blog post does contain Amazon affiliate links.