Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘East End’

489f702235ea86b596d6a716b77434f414f4141

This non-fiction work has been made famous by the BBC series of the same name which was based on Jennifer Worth’s memoirs. Being a big fan of the series, I was eager to read the book, and I was not disappointed.

If you have seen the series, many of the stories and characters contained within this book will be familiar to you; if you haven’t seen it (first of all, why not?!) and second of all, it doesn’t matter a jot. The book preceded the show and therefore you don’t need any prior knowledge to enjoy this book.

Rather than a chronological account, the author tells many different stories from her time at Nonnatus House in the East End of London as a midwife. Many of the stories are heartwarming and amusing, but there are also some tragic tales – the story of Mary, a young girl who ran away from Ireland to escape abuse only to find a worse fate waiting for her in London, is heartbreaking.

I felt that the characters of the Nuns of Nonnatus House were well described, although I didn’t feel that I learned much about Jennifer (Jenny) herself. It is clear from her writing that she was well-educated and intelligent, but other than that, she is largely reticent about her private life. However, the real heart of this book lies in the East End characters and indeed the East End itself – I feel that she brought the time period to life very well, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

Highly recommended.

Read Full Post »

Mary Gibson’s debut novel takes place between 1911 – 1919, and revolves around Nellie Clarke, one of the ‘custard tarts’ who works at Pearce Duff biscuit factory in East London. It begins with her meeting the charismatic Eliza James, who encourages female factory workers to strike for better wages and living conditions, and follows Nellie through the first world war, as she sees the young men in her neighbourhood go off to fight for their country.

As Nellie is just sixteen at the start of the book, the story sees her grow up and have to work hard to keep her family safe and together. She faces numerous challenges, both romantic and financial, and has to make the transition from child to adult very quickly.

I think the book was well written, and it certainly seems that the author has done a lot of research about the era. There were quite a few twists and turns, and while some parts were predictable, there were some surprises along the way too. Having said that, it didn’t ever completely engage me, although I think that is more down to my personal taste – I’m not really a big fan of cosy historical sagas, which I would categorise this as, despite the fact that it demonstrates the hardship of Nellie’s life, and the effect of the war upon her and her friends.

Nellie though was a likeable central character, as was Sam Gilbie, a young man who played a very central role in the story, and even if it was not really my kind of book, I still found myself reading large chunks of it at a time.

If this is the kind of genre that you enjoy, then I would certainly recommend this book, but on a personal level, while I enjoyed it in part, I am not sure that I would try another book of this type for a while.

Read Full Post »