The Girl From World's End by Leah Fleming

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The Girl From World's End by Leah Fleming

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A tale of the tragedies that alcohol can bring to a family set in an unforgiving area high up in the Yorkshire Dales. Meticulously researched, you will know just what it was like from the nineteen-twenties through to the forties.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: October 2007
Publisher: AVON
ISBN: 978-1847560063

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Mirren Gilchrist was used to sitting outside the pub waiting for her widowed father to appear. She was used to supporting him home when he was - as usual - the worse for drink. One night it's so cold that Mirren goes home without him - and he's hit by a train whilst crossing the railway line and Mirren has to live with the guilt. She's taken in by grandparents she's never met and goes to live on their farm in the Yorkshire Dales. After a rocky start she finds fulfilment in the harsh way of life and knows that she wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

Sitting here at my desk I can look up the Wharfe valley to the area where this book is set. It's beautiful but unforgiving even in summer and Leah Fleming captures this perfectly although you won't find any of the towns and villages she mentions. Her research has been meticulous, from the details about the total eclipse of the sun in June 1927 through to the snow storms which used to ravage the area, with the winter of 1947 still being talked about as one of the worst on record. The effects of the Second World War are well documented too, with there being less direct physical danger than in some areas, but strange privations and a constant struggle to produce the food that the country so desperately needed.

Alcohol - and the ruin it can bring - flows through the book. Mirren learns her lesson early when she sees the damage that it does to her father and to his relationships, but it catches her again when she marries Jack. After a disastrous war he turns to the bottle for comfort with dreadful consequences for his wife and children. The alcohol theme predominated just a little too much for my taste - but that's purely personal.

I liked the characters and it was easy to imagine them living up at the top of this valley, with Church and Chapel vying for souls and the pub sometimes doing best of all. I found myself being cross with Mirren on occasions because it was perfectly obvious that Jack was no good for her and it was equally obvious who was the right man, but they're all balanced characters with good and bad in them. Ben was perhaps a little too perfect and long-suffering to be true, but I particularly warmed to the older generation, given a second chance with their orphaned grandchild and sometimes struggling to make the most of it. It's a good, enjoyable read, with some social history and all the lose ends neatly tied up.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.

For another story of orphaned children going to live with their grandparents, although in less-happy circumstances, you might like to read Tell It To The Skies by Erica James.

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