#BlogTour #BookReview The Girl from Bletchley Park by Kathleen McGurl @rararesources @KathMcGurl @HQStories

The Girl From Bletchley Park Full Tour Banner

Welcome today’s stop on the blog tour for The Girl from Bletchley Park by Kathleen McGurl. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to HQ Digital for my review copy via NetGalley. The Girl from Bletchley Park is available now as an ebook and will be published in paperback in January 2022.

The Girl from Bletchley ParkAbout the Book

A country at war. A heartbreaking betrayal.

1942.Three years into the war, Pam turns down her hard-won place at Oxford University to become a codebreaker at Bletchley Park. There, she meets two young men, both keen to impress her, and Pam finds herself falling hard for one of them. But as the country’s future becomes more uncertain by the day, a tragic turn of events casts doubt on her choice – and Pam’s loyalty is pushed to its limits…

Present day. Julia is struggling to juggle her career, two children and a husband increasingly jealous of her success.Her brother presents her with the perfect distraction: forgotten photos of their grandmother as a young woman at Bletchley Park. Why did her grandmother never speak of her time there? The search for answers leads Julia to an incredible tale of betrayal and bravery – one that inspires some huge decisions of her own..

Format: ebook (326 pages)                  Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication date: 3rd November 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Dual Time

Find The Girl from Bletchley Park on Goodreads

Purchase links
Disclosure: If you buy a book via the above link, I may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops

Hive | Amazon UK
Links provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

I really enjoyed The Stationmaster’s Daughter when I read it back in 2019 so my interest was immediately piqued when I learned Kathleen McGurl had a new book coming out.

There is a continuing fascination with the work carried out at Bletchley Park during World War 2, work which we now know proved of great significance to the war effort. The author takes us “behind the scenes” at Bletchley Park through the story of Pamela, a promising student of mathematics who is persuaded to defer her place at university and instead put her skills to work in the service of her country. During her time at Bletchley Park, Pamela makes friendships that will last a lifetime but also learns in the most dramatic way possible that not everyone is quite what they seem, the author deftly playing with the reader’s doubts and suspicions.

Interwoven with Pamela’s experiences is the present day story of Julia, Pamela’s granddaughter. As the book progresses the similarities between the situations the two women face become increasingly apparent. For example, a neat touch is that Julia runs her own IT business whilst Pamela worked on what could be considered an early version of a computer. In different ways, both Pamela and Julia experience betrayal by those they have come to trust but also find help from unexpected quarters. Along the way ties of friendship and affection are tested and both women have to summon up all their strength to protect those they care about.

I really liked the way Julia’s relationship with her two sons, Oscar and Ryan, was portrayed and how they progress from being stroppy teenagers to showing signs of becoming fine young men. Julia’s brother, Bob, and Drew, the husband of Julia’s business partner, act as counterpoints to other less than admirable examples of the male species. And, in the earlier timeline, Clarissa proves a steadfast friend to Pamela whose warnings, as it turns out, Pamela would have done well to heed.

The Girl from Bletchley Park will appeal to fans of dual timeline stories with an element of mystery, and those with an interest in the contribution, often largely unsung, of women to the war effort.

In three words: Engaging, emotional, intriguing

Try something similarThe Sea Gate by Jane Johnson

Follow this blog via Bloglovin

The Stationmasters Kathleen McGurl author photoAbout the Author

Kathleen McGurl lives near the coast in Christchurch, England. She writes dual timeline novels in which a historical mystery is uncovered and resolved in the present day. She is married to an Irishman and has two adult sons. She enjoys travelling, especially in her motorhome around Europe.

Connect with Kathleen
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

The Girl From Bletchley Park

#BookReview Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers

Small PleasuresAbout the Book

1957, south-east suburbs of London. Jean Swinney is a feature writer on a local paper, disappointed in love and – on the brink of forty – living a limited existence with her truculent mother: a small life from which there is no likelihood of escape.

When a young Swiss woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud. But the more Jean investigates, the more her life becomes strangely (and not unpleasantly) intertwined with that of the Tilburys: Gretchen is now a friend, and her quirky and charming daughter Margaret a sort of surrogate child. And Jean doesn’t mean to fall in love with Gretchen’s husband, Howard, but Howard surprises her with his dry wit, his intelligence and his kindness – and when she does fall, she falls hard.

But he is married, and to her friend – who is also the subject of the story she is researching for the newspaper, a story that increasingly seems to be causing dark ripples across all their lives. And yet Jean cannot bring herself to discard the chance of finally having a taste of happiness…

But there will be a price to pay, and it will be unbearable.

Format: Hardcover (352 pages) Publisher: Wiedenfeld & Nicolson
Publication date: 9th July 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find Small Pleasures on Goodreads

Purchase links
Disclosure: If you buy a book via the above link, I may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops

Hive | Amazon UK
Links provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme

My Review

Longlisted for the Womens Prize for Fiction 2021, I’m pretty sure Small Pleasures is going to be one of my favourite books this year. For that I have to thank the team at Waterstones in Reading for selecting it for their first post-lockdown book club and making me pluck it from my bookshelves.

From their first meeting, Jean senses something in Gretchen’s husband Howard that makes her feel she can unburden herself to him despite the relatively short time she has known him. ‘She was aware that Howard was hardly an appropriate confidante, but he was so sensible and safe and unlikely to do anything at all except sympathize, that she couldn’t restrain herself.’  I loved the way their relationship progresses in small, tentative steps: a glance or touch of the hand, a compliment, a hitherto unspoken secret, a gift that is the product of ‘careful and loving workmanship’.

Clare Chambers shows such insight into the loving relationship that develops between Jean and Howard. Yes, there is passion but there are also ‘the small acts of domestic intimacy – sharing a bath, preparing a meal side by side at the stove, putting clean sheets on the bed..’ Can’t you just imagine how Jean, who has often felt lonely and the highlight of whose evenings has frequently been listening to the Light Programme on the radio with her mother, could savour such moments.

I also enjoyed the relationship that developed between Jean and Gretchen’s daughter, Margaret. Jean enjoys taking on the role of ‘unofficial aunt’ and taking Margaret on outings. Jean is constantly surprised by Margaret’s ‘charming and unexpected comments – at once innocent and profound’, even if such comments include complex words that would not usually be in the vocabulary of a young girl, and which she claims are whispered to her by angels.

Jean’s relationship with Howard gives her a glimpse of a different future, one she could never have imagined or thought she deserved. This is brought home by a holiday Jean and her mother take. In the hotel they are staying at, Jean sees another mother and daughter and the mother’s obvious complete dependence on her daughter gives Jean an uncomfortable insight into what perhaps awaits her. Despite this, Jean suffers a constant sense of guilt about her relationship with Howard, what it might do to Gretchen, and more importantly Margaret, and how this can be combined with meeting her mother’s needs. This leads Jean to make an act of great sacrifice, one which will involve giving up everything she has come to hold dear.

For me the playing out of the relationship between Jean and Howard was so completely enthralling, I almost forgot about the event that brought them together, Gretchen’s claim that Margaret is the result of a virgin birth. Whether you believe it is a possibility or are sceptical from the start, the process of trying to establish the truth will keep you enthralled and amazed at what was scientifically possible even back in the 1950s. In the end, it is Jean’s journalistic instincts and tenacity that leads to uncovering the truth.

Readers for whom, like me, the opening page of Small Pleasures remained at the back of their mind whilst reading the book, will have experienced a growing sense of unease as the months go by and a particular date draws near. I’m not ashamed to admit that the ending of the book – and a bunch of roses – reduced me to tears but I like to think the opportunity for miracles survives even in the darkest places.

There was so much I loved about Small Pleasures that I’m not going to say much more other than to encourage you to read it for yourself. However, I will share my favourite line from the book: ‘I love him, she thought with a kind of wonderment. I never intended to, but now I do’.

In three words: Tender, intimate, heart-breaking

Follow this blog via Bloglovin

Clare ChambersAbout the Author

Clare Chamber’s first job after reading English Literature at Hertford College, Oxford, was working for Diana Athill at Andre Deutsch. Clare’s first novel Uncertain Terms was published by Diana at André Deutsch in 1992 and she is the author of five other novels. Small Pleasures, her first work of fiction in ten years, became a word-of-mouth hit on publication and was selected for BBC 2’s ‘Between the Covers’ book club. (Bio/photo credit: Publisher author page)

Connect with Clare
Goodreads | Twitter |