Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for A Ration Book Daughter by Jean Fullerton, the fifth book in her series featuring the Brogan clan and set in World War 2 London. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Corvus for my digital review copy via NetGalley.
I’m delighted to say there’s also a giveaway (UK only) with a chance to win one of six paperback copies of A Ration Book Daughter. Enter via this link.
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About the Book
Not even the Blitz can shake a mother’s love.
Cathy was a happy, blushing bride when Britain went to war with Germany three years ago. But her youthful dreams were crushed by her violent husband Stanley’s involvement with the fascist black-shirts, and even when he’s conscripted to fight she knows it’s only a brief respite – divorce is not an option. Cathy’s only solace is her little son Peter.
When a telegram arrives declaring that her husband is missing in action, Cathy can finally allow herself to hope – she only has to wait 6 months before she is legally a widow and can move on with her life. But in the meantime she has to keep Peter safe and fed. So she advertises for a lodger, and Sergeant Archie McIntosh of the Royal Engineers’ Bomb Disposal Squad turns up. Kind, clever and thoughtful, their mutual attraction is instant.
But with Stanley’s fate still unclear, and the Blitz still raging in London’s East End, will Cathy ever have the love she deserves?
Format: Paperback (416 pages) Publisher: Corvus
Publication date: 6th May 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction
Find A Ration Book Daughter (East End Ration #5) on Goodreads
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I’ve enjoyed all the previous books in this series that I’ve read having first been introduced to it by winning a copy of A Ration Book Christmas in a Readers First giveaway.
One of my favourite characters remains Queenie, Cathy’s grandmother and matriarch of the Brogan clan, who has a particularly interesting way of marking Sunday worship and family celebrations. Fiercely protective of her family, you definitely do not want to get on the wrong side of Queenie. This is amply demonstrated in the book when the recipient of Queenie’s ire results in someone returning home ‘with a face like a gargoyle with a wasp stuck up its nose’. However, she does have a softer side, demonstrated by her tender care for ailing priest Father Mahon.
The introduction of new characters such as Glaswegian widower Sergeant Archie McIntosh and vicar’s wife Mrs Paget allows the author to explore prejudice in its various forms. I also liked the way Archie’s artistic talent challenges the expected stereotype and, in fact, comes to play an important role in the plot. Providing the characters we love to hate this time are Violet Wheeler, Cathy’s horrendous mother-in-law, who refers to ‘that nice Mr Mosley’ and will hear no wrong when it comes to her vile son Stanley, and Archie’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Monkman, who was definitely away the day they conducted discrimination awareness training.
Archie’s role in the Royal Engineers’ Bomb Disposal Squad provides a timely reminder of the courage of those who quite literally took their life in their hands every time they were called out. And while we’re talking about Archie, can you blame Cathy for her reaction when she first gets a glimpse of the ‘corded muscles of his back, shoulders and arms’ as he washes at the kitchen sink? No, neither can I. Cathy’s role in the Women’s Voluntary Service and her sister Jo’s work in a munitions factory also reveal what a vital role women played in the war effort.
The atmosphere of wartime London simply oozes from the page whether that’s the spread at a christening party – sardine and spam sandwiches or eggless fruit cake anyone? – or the menu at the Brogans’ favourite East End pie and mash shop – stewed and jellied eels or individual beef pies served upturned, all accompanied by a pile of mashed potato and smothered in parsley sauce. And it being 1942 there’s the sound of the almost nightly air raids on London with the ‘ear-splitting clamour of falling bombs…joined by the whistles of the ARP wardens, police claxons and fire engine bells’.
As with previous books in the series, A Ration Book Daughter contains a wealth of fascinating information. For example, that the distinctive taste of the sauce just mentioned can be attributed to the water having been used beforehand to stew the eels. Or that responsibility for dealing with unexploded bombs was split between the Royal Engineers and the Royal Navy depending on the type of bomb involved. Or that there is such a thing as a camouflet when a bomb explodes underground creating a pocket of deadly carbon monoxide. The author also takes the opportunity to introduce real events into the story resulting in one particularly memorable and dramatic scene, the true scale of which was kept under wraps for fear of its effect on morale.
It was a joy to catch up with the seemingly ever expanding Brogan clan. As is said more than once in the book, ‘If it wasn’t for the Brogans, people would have nothing to talk about’. It was also wonderful to be introduced to new characters like Archie.
In A Ration Book Daughter, Jean Fullerton once again skilfully combines a convincing picture of daily life on the ‘Home Front’ with an engaging love story that, for me, stayed just on the right side of sentimentality. In fact, I’ll admit to becoming a little tearful towards the end of the book. For fans of historical sagas set in World War 2 this is a series I can’t recommend highly enough. Although I was delighted to learn there is another book on its way soon, I was sad to learn it will be the final one in the Ration Book series. I’d better keep my spirits up by putting the kettle on for another brew.
In three words: Heart-warming, authentic, emotional
Try something similar: The Walls We Build by Jules Hayes
About the Author
Born and bred in East London Jean is a District Nurse by trade and has worked as a NHS manager and as a senior lecture in Health and Nursing Studies. She left her day job to become a full-time writer in 2015 and has never looked back.
In 2006 she won the Harry Bowling Prize and now has seventeen sagas published over three series with both Orion and Atlantic all of which are set in East London.
She is an experienced public speaker with hundreds of WI and women’s club talks under her belt, plus for the past fifteen years she has sailed all over the world as an enrichment speaker and writing workshop leader on cruise ships.