The Woolworths Girls by Elaine Everest

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The Woolworths Girls by Elaine Everest

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: Three eager young friends start work at Woolworths in 1938, but the war is just around the corner and they will need to draw closer than ever before.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 448 Date: May 2016
Publisher: Pan
ISBN: 9781447295488

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It is Christmas, 1938, and three young ladies are excited about starting their new jobs at Woolworths in Erith. For each one of them, the job is a means of escape: Sarah wants to escape her snobbish and controlling mother; newlywed Maisie can't abide her bullying mother in law; and shy Freda is running away from her abusive stepfather and searching for her brother, who has escaped from prison. The Woolworths Girls soon become close friends, but with the threat of war looming large, and tragedy just around the corner, they are going to need to rely on each other more than ever before.

The author was a former 'Woolworths Girl' herself, so the story is full of authentic touches and warm memories. It is also clear that she has done plenty of research, with strict attention to detail, so that we really get a feel for the time period and a taste of what life was like in Erith during the war.

The characters are at the heart of the story and each is vibrantly written and has their own tale to tell. No doubt, readers will identify with either Sarah, Maisie or Freda and really start to care about what happens to them as the story progresses and the war takes its toll on each one of them. The secondary characters were also well written and fully fleshed out. My particular favourite was Vera, the overbearing neighbour who secretly has a kind heart, although she doesn't show it very often. She gets some of the best lines in the book and I think most of us know someone like her and will be able to sympathise with her poor neighbours!

There is a strong theme of love and loss throughout the book and it is interesting to see how each of the characters responds to their changing circumstances. The author is skilled at manipulating our feelings and I loved the way that she added a virtual 'soundtrack' to the story by mentioning certain songs that would accompany the story. It adds an extra dimension to the storytelling and makes the journey even more emotional.

I had issues with the pace of the book, though. It started off strongly, but slowed down a lot in the middle. Then, near the end of the book, the revelations came thick and fast and the plot suddenly gained pace again, as if the author suddenly realised that she was running out of pages and needed to squeeze everything in before the end. This made the flow of the book feel uneven and I felt like I was wading through lots of padding before being unexpectedly catapulted headlong to my final destination.

I look forward to the author's next book, The Butlins Girls, and hope that it will have the same character-driven heart as this book. I thank the publishers for my review copy.

If you enjoyed this book, you should try The Mill Girls by Tracy Johnson, a humorous and affectionate account of life 'in mill' in the war years.

Buy The Woolworths Girls by Elaine Everest at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Woolworths Girls by Elaine Everest at

Buy The Woolworths Girls by Elaine Everest at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Woolworths Girls by Elaine Everest at


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Elaine Everest said:

Many thanks for taking the time to review my book, The Woolworths Girls, and for your comments. Best wishes,


Sue said:

It was our pleasure, Elaine.