Pack Up Your Troubles by Pam Weaver
|Pack Up Your Troubles by Pam Weaver|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Fairhead|
|Summary: Set in the post-war years, this novel is well written and makes interesting social history, but there are rather too many interwoven plots that make the book feel somewhat jumpy and confusing.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 376||Date: June 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
This book opens on VE Day. Connie - who has been doing war work - and some friends are on their way to Trafalgar Square to celebrate. Connie had hoped her boyfriend would be with her, but he’s stood her up... however she’s determined to enjoy herself anyway. She meets some other girls, and gets chatting to Eva. They find themselves parted from the rest of their group, but have fun anyway, including playing in a fountain with some soldiers... and are caught on camera doing so.
Unfortunately, as they discover at the end of the day, they are from families who have sworn enmity and should not even have spoken to each other, let alone become friendly. Which, for some reason I never did understand, makes them decide that they don’t like each other after all.
Connie evidently has a dark and unpleasant secret in her past, which is hinted at more than once. She is part of a close family, who can be somewhat controlling, although her brother disappeared some years previously. She is also very friendly with some gypsies who regularly camp near her family home. One of them is somewhat sullen, but starts helping out a local painter... and is then accused of theft.
Meanwhile, Connie starts training as a nurse, where she meets Eva again, and is - after a while - the subject of some very unpleasant anonymous letters. A young girl who works for her family is almost driven to suicide by some equally nasty letters. Two young men both decide that they very much like Connie, and she almost gets engaged to the wrong one. Oh, and there’s a decidedly creepy paedophile who pops into the storyline from time to time in a way that jarred: perhaps deliberately.
As may be clear by now, there are a lot of different story lines, loosely related and interwoven. Those above are just a selection. The plot jumped around quite a bit; I don’t know how many times I forgot one or other of the large cast of characters, and had to flip back to find out when they were last mentioned, and to remind myself who it was. While I appreciated the positive slant given to the gypsies and their friendship with Connie, their story didn’t really fit with the rest, and I felt that it could easily have been missed out, to give the novel rather more coherence. Nor did I really understand the point of the family feud, which - when it’s finally resolved - seems to have been entirely pointless.
While Connie is the viewpoint character for most of the story, and is likeable enough, I never entirely sympathised with her; she’s too much of a mixture of emotions and personality traits to be entirely believable. I like to have my emotions caught when I read; I was a bit disappointed that this didn’t happen at all during this book. There was one scene towards the end where I felt that I should have had tears pouring down my face, but somehow I was entirely unmoved.
Having said that, the author has evidently done her research thoroughly. From a social history point of view, it’s very interesting, and the writing flows well as the various subplots unfold. It was a good book to read over several evenings; I was interested to know how some of the story lines were going to be resolved, but found it easy enough to put down after a chapter or two. The way the different subplots gradually converge is cleverly done, although the climax of the book seems a little over-dramatic.
I sound mostly negative but it’s really not a bad book, and for anyone who enjoys novels set in this period - after the war, but with some quite heavy issues - it would make a good, somewhat thought-provoking read.
Oh, and there’s a bonus at the end of the book - two short stories. I thought at first that they were introductions to other books by the same author, so that was a pleasant surprise. They were contemporary stories with mildly amusing twists, and I enjoyed them.
Thanks to the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy Pack Up Your Troubles by Pam Weaver at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Pack Up Your Troubles by Pam Weaver at Amazon.com.
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