Although I don't get the chance to read, or be in the mind set to read as much as I'd like, yep I still have a pile of un-read books to keep me going for the rest of the year, I couldn't pass up the chance to review a new book by fellow writer/journo Elaine Everest. The Woolworths Girls jumped out at me, apart from loving and missing their Pick and Mix, I also love seeing and reading about what town centres and iconic shops used to be like, so this novel sounded a great fit.
The story opens on three nervous young women, all slightly different ages, and coming from different backgrounds. Maisie, Sarah, and Freda all turn up at Erith Woolworths on the same day hoping for a job. They became instant friends, and the shop where they ended up working becomes the backdrop for life, love, and sometimes pain.
New characters are introduced at various points in the story, some like Alan, trainee manager, make an instant impact as a love interest, while others such as Betty Billington develop bigger roles as the story moves on, both through daily life, bigger dramas, and the onset and eventual impact of war.
Sometimes the book left me wanting more - it would've been fun to see old pictures of Woolworths, and what the store was like, beyond working for the company. I also questioned how quick Sarah fell in love, and would've liked to have seen a bit more of Freda and Lenny together.
I'd say this was a book full of moments, and all of those moments I enjoyed. The obvious contrast between the 3 girls when they met, the insights into the local community, and the inclusion of local busybody Vera were all well-written. I don't want to give away too much and end up writing a spoiler post, but some of the lesser characters have some surprises I didn't expect, and as for the ending - it's a poignant one.
My concentration did go a few times, but overall I was engaged, and enjoyed Elaine's vivid writing style. I've read a fair few historical based novels before, and some of the story is nothing new, but this novel will stand out against the rest for the variety of characters in the same community, and the shop setting provided scope for interesting day to day details.
I can't imagine the work that goes into writing a whole book, I've only ever tried the odd short story, so well done Elaine, and I would read/buy your work again in the future.
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