I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll definitely know I’m a sucker for stories about women’s role in the industrial workforce during the Second World War. So far, I’ve read amazing books about women working as candy stripers, lumberjills, and shipyard workers. This time, it was about women working in munitions factories.
Read on to find out what I thought of this book.
August 1941: As war sweeps across Britain and millions of men enlist to serve their country, it’s up to the women to fight the battle on the home front.
Fran always thought she would marry her childhood sweetheart and lead a simple life in Massingham, the beloved pit village she has always called home.
But with war taking so many men to the front line, the opening of a new factory in the north-east of England presents an opportunity for Fran to forge a new path.
Against her father’s wishes and with best friends Sarah and Beth by her side, Fran signs up to join the ranks of women at the factory. It’s dangerous work but as the three friends risk life and limb for their country, they will discover that their lives are only just beginning…
Can I take a step back from reviewing this book for a moment and gush about this entire sub-genre instead? Because I’d like to gush about this sub-genre.
Bless war-time economy in the ’40s, because it paved the way for women joining the workforce, for taking up space in industries that were previously assumed to be male preserves. Here were women, doing the highly skilled jobs men thought they couldn’t do and they even agitated for equal pay. These stories are inspiring to read and there can’t be enough books about these ladies, IMO.
Over to this book.
Girls at the Home Front is about women from the pit/colliery village of Massingham. The main character Fran decides to support her family, currently living on the wages of her pit man father, by becoming a munitionette along with her friends. How she navigates through a job that makes her risk her life and health every day and also deals with the problems of her family and friends forms the rest of the story.
Annie Clarke has written an excellent start to the Factory Girls saga, with characters who readers will be left thinking about days after finishing the novel. For these characters have been fleshed brilliantly and will have even the coldest of readers rooting for their happiness.
When I first started reading this novel, I found the writing a little difficult because it’s almost fully in the Newcastle (Geordie) dialect. But I’ve always loved hearing Geordie words (they sound sexy, don’t @ me), so I got used to reading them in no time.
I think the best novels are the ones that have me shaking my fist at antagonists, and this one went one up–I complained about one of the annoying characters, Ralph, to my mom. It was mostly because she got irritated by my constant tutting while reading this book, but complain I did. I was rooting for the main characters so bad, I wanted to kill this meddling rich boy who wouldn’t leave them alone.
Most WWII sagas fall into the trap of making their main characters too sanctimonious, but this one was a breath of fresh air. The characters are not all self-righteous, they do slip up and make mistakes, but overall, these are just everyday people trying to go about their own lives, looking for their own happily ever afters. And therein lies the beauty of this novel.
Another aspect that I loved about Girls at the Home Front was that it wasn’t just about the Canary Girls. There’s another group of badass women, the mothers of these girls, who start a rug-making co-op. I’d love a spinoff or novella dedicated to these housewives who were secretly business-savvy all along.
In all, Girls at the Home Front is a heartwarming story of a close-knit community trying to make it through a war, both at enemy lines and at the home front in terms of dealing with life, relationships, and death. This book is a fresh reminder about all the warrior women from the ’40s and it goes to show that females are strong as hell. I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves their badass women, war novels, and stories of love and unity in the time of adversity.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Girls on the Home Front releases on May 30th, 2019. Order it today.