The Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell

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The Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A first in series fictionalised tribute to WWII's female shipyard workers moves at a cracking pace, taking our imaginations along with it. Great people, great story and the makings of a great series.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: September 2016
Publisher: Arrow
ISBN: 978-1784754631

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1940 and the workload of Thompsons, the Wearside shipyard, increases so much they do the unthinkable: employ women to perform the roles traditionally taken by men. It's the bravest as well as the strongest women who accept the challenge and, under the expert tuition of Rosie, begin to take their places beside their male counterparts. It's not an easy ride for any of them. In fact, as they band together, there's one particular group that will face dangers in their daily lives as real - and more imminent - than any encountered on the slipway.

Journalist and writer Amanda Revell Walton hails from Sunderland and a family deep in shipyard heritage. It therefore made perfect sense for her to take on the pen name of Nancy Revell in order to separate her second profession from the day job and treat us to a novel that's as accurate as it is enthralling.

This is a disparate group of women who, to begin with, only have welding in common. Yet, while they battle at work for acceptance, each of the girls has a definite personality and position in the story and, very soon, in our affections.

Rosie may be at home behind a welding torch but her life isn't as ordered or easy to guide. Orphaned years, earlier and with a kid sister to support, Rosie has taken drastic measures that she desperately hides from everyone. There's no judgement from us but others aren't so accepting, including a particular dangerous visitor from her past.

Polly lives with her mother, sister in law and niece, all feeling the absence of Polly's brother at the front. That doesn't mean there's no room in her heart for romance though. Then there's the young flighty Deborah who learns the hard way and Gloria whose battles are as close to home as the air raids.

If any of this sounds soap-opera-ish then I'm doing Nancy a great disservice. This is an un-dumbed-down cracking read. Social and political history is deftly woven into a tale of survival against the odds, attitudes and crushing sense of concern for those away fighting. There's also a nastily devious, deeply malevolent baddie (as well as a lass we just want to shake!) who would have kept me up at night if I hadn't read it in daylight. Yes, Nancy communicates all things really well, including fear!

Indeed, the author set out to write a tribute to the shipyard's wartime volunteers and she succeeds. They take form in our imaginations and remain in our memories. The best news yet is that this is a first in series that promises much and, so far, delivers it.

(Thank you to the good folk at Arrow for providing us with a copy for review. We also have a review of book two.)

Further Reading: If this appeals, we also highly recommend The Heart of the Night by Judith Lennox and The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom by Alison Love. It's non-fiction but you might also enjoy The Girls Who Went to War by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi.

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Buy The Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell at


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