This beautiful paperback edition which I can see, smell and feel, was gifted to me out of generosity, by the author, for which I sincerely thank her! 🙂
SECRETS OF THE RAILWAY GIRLS (The Railway Girls #2)
As the war continues and secrets threaten the railway girls, they will discover the true meaning of friendship.
For Dot, her job on the railways is everything. Transporting parcels around the country gives her pride that she is doing her bit for the war effort, but a growing friendship causes problems when home and work collide.
Joan loves her boyfriend Bob dearly, but when tragedy strikes, her heart is torn apart, and she is forced to make a decision that could hurt those she loves most.
Meanwhile Mabel has finally found a place to call home and her relationship seems to be going from strength to strength. However, the relentless bombing in the Christmas blitz is about to destroy everything she holds dear, and she will need her friends’ courage and generosity now more than ever.
Brought together by their work on Manchester’s railways, the three women find that with the support and encouragement of each other, they can get through even the most challenging of times.
She loves writing stories with strong female characters, set in times when women needed determination and vision to make their mark.
The Railway Girls series is inspired by her great aunt Jessie, who worked as a railway clerk during the First World War.
Maisie lives on the beautiful North Wales coast with her railway enthusiast husband and their two rescue cats.
They have enjoyed many holidays chugging up and down the UK’s heritage steam railways and their favourite is the Severn Valley Railway.
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“My hope for the characters in this series is that they will forge friendships that will last a lifetime, because I know from personal experience that strong friendships between women can provide support and comfort, not to mention loads of fun. I hope that you, my readers, have just such special friendships in your lives too”
LATE NOVEMBER 1940
“Well! Wonders would never cease. Dot stared across the kitchen at Reg. Gawped would be a better word. There stood Reg, her not-so-loving husband, in his Sunday suit, holding his homburg in his hands, his slicked-down hair thinner than it used to be and his once firm neck looking stringy above his collar and tie, just come home from being interviewed to be an ARP warden. Reg – working for Air Raid Precautions.
Reg looked from Dot to Sheila and Pammy, their two daughters-in-law, who were sitting with Dot at her kitchen table, here to enjoy a secret meeting about Christmas while the children played tiddlywinks in the front parlour. Other folks kept their front parlour for best, meaning it was hardly ever used, and Dot, nothing if not house-proud, had been the same for years, but once her family had expanded and a new generation had come along, she has adopted a more flexible approach”
“Dot made sure she had a smile on her face before she raised her eyes again. It was a wise woman who lover her sons’ choice of wives, something she had reminded herself of more than once over the years. Did other mothers-in-law feel this way? It wasn’t summat you could ask”
“Have you ever climbed to the top of a church tower? Or stood on the edge of a cliff, with your toes curling up inside your shoes, trying to hang on? You know that feeling when your tummy plummets and your mind swoops and you’re scared of falling? That’s how I feel when I walk along the hallway and open my front door. It’s how I feel when I have to open the door and pay the milk lady. That’s why I can’t leave the house. I don’t want to be stuck in here, but I am, because that front door is the edge of a cliff”
“Dot’s gaze ran across the memorial, absorbing the beauty and the sadness. All those lost lives. All those shattered families. And now they were in the middle of another war and there were more shattered families”
“She soon realised that there were several mother-and-daughter pairs here, working side by side, and it brought home to her the loss with which she had grown up. Could you miss what you had never had? Yes, you could, absolutely. She had never had her mother’s love. She gave herself a moment to hate Estelle, but no hatred bubbled up. All she felt was a profound sadness. She had never hated Estelle. Gran had done her utmost to teach her to, and Joan, obedient to the last, had pretended she did. But what she felt for Estelle had always been a weary, never-ending longing”
“I told you,” said Joan. “I didn’t make up my mind. It was my heart that decided.”
“In times of trouble, they will stand together”
Whilst author Maisie Thomas has treated me to this, the captivating second, stand alone ‘Railway Girls’ story; as a collection and notwithstanding the horrific and devastating nature of events surrounding the storylines, this series is just getting better and better!
I am completely invested in the characters, location and lives, of this war-torn community, which documents in a way which is both entertaining and informative, a very special slice of social and cultural history and personal commentary of the times, meticulously researched to the ‘Nth degree’, so as to be as authentic and realistic as is possible.
That Maisie decided to set this wartime saga in the northern City of Manchester, a place she knows personally so well, she features not only one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, in Victoria Railway Station, but one which holds such relevant interest for her to this day, shines through all too clearly in the authentic details, which make this book a joy to savour as either an armchair traveller, or amateur social historian.
Replete with intensely textured and often profoundly touching detail, Maisie has created a beautifully structured storyline, which is rich in atmosphere, written with total authority and related with complete confidence, assured in the journey on which she wishes to take both her characters and readers. Crisp, observational and descriptive narrative, combined with excellent conversational and fluid dialogue, offers a real sense of time and place. I could almost imagine myself sharing an after work snatched cup of tea in the railway station buffet with some of the ladies. Or out on patrol with the first aid team, as the bombs keep raining down and our services are needed by so many people, many of whom we don’t know, but always with that fear that the next port of call will involve a personal relative or friend!
From all walks of life, this newly established group of friends have been thrown together by the necessities and tragedy of WWII and the impact that has had on what has until then, been a predominantly male oriented workplace. With so many of their husbands, sons and brothers having been called to arms, it is left to the women left at home to pick up the slack of the unfilled jobs, which will help to keep the country safe and functioning as smoothly as possible, to ensure the survival of a nation, through its railway network. To say that this is a culture shock to those men who have been unable to join the frontline fighting forces, is to trivialise the feelings of jealousy and outrage, at the turning inside out of the very fabric of their lives. Many accept the inevitable with good grace, whilst some will harbour ill-will and grudges a plenty, especially when the women prove they are more than capable of ensuring that the most important of services are kept running efficiently, as well as still being able to maintain home and family with an almost ‘service as usual’ attitude!
A born storyteller, Maisie has created a complete, multi-faceted community of individually complex characters for me to connect with, giving each of them a unique and individual voice, with which to tell their own story’s. Whilst I didn’t necessarily invest in every single one of them individually to the same degree, much as I wouldn’t with any group I was introduced to or joined, as a collective they formed a special representative snapshot of the fabric of society, which could have been picked up and moved to any place in the country at that moment in time, where the resultant spirit of endeavour, cooperation, friendship and ‘pulling together’, would have shone through the heartbreak of war.
That as vulnerable individuals, they all have their own complexities and emotional traumas and heart-breaking secrets there is no doubt. However war is a great leveller and the developing genuine synergy and evolving dynamics between them and some of the individual transformations, whilst often causing some amusing and laugh-out-loud moments, only made them more genuine and believable. Even the most stoic and private of them, is fast coming to realise, that in these times of doubt and uncertainty, a trouble shared is a trouble halved, as they prove time and again that they will always be there for one another, whether it be to lend a helping hand or simply as a shoulder to cry on.
When characters are this realistically drawn, well defined and developed, almost before I could stop myself, I found that I was assigning each of their personalities, mannerisms or appearances, to people I know or have known in my own life, making this story all the more personal and intimate.
A complimentary paperback edition of this book, was generously gifted to me by the author. No promotion or review was requested or sought after in exchange.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!