Sing as We Go by Margaret Dickinson

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Sing as We Go by Margaret Dickinson

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: Kathy leaves her violent and unloving father, to make a new life in the city. She finds a job and falls in love, but life throws several obstacles in her path.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 528 Date: March 2008
Publisher: Pan Books
ISBN: 978-0330452625

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This is a fast-paced and well-written novel set in the early 1940s. The heroine, Kathy, is strong-willed and determined. Her father is unloving and sometimes violent, and her mother loving but not very strong. Kathy manages to leave - with her mother's blessing - and stays with her best friend's aunt in the city. She finds a job, makes new friends, and falls in love with the handsome Tony, who has reputedly broken several hearts already.

Of course, life is never straightforward. Kathy's boss is one of Tony's ex-girlfriends, and Tony's mother is a selfish and manipulative woman who doesn't want him to love anyone but herself. There's also the rather large matter of World War II looming, with all it involves, including blackouts, rationing and the dreaded conscription.

I sometimes find novels set in the war years to be rather dry, heavily weighted in favour of factual accounts of the war, with the characters secondary. That isn't the case with Sing as We Go'. I thought the balance was good - there's plenty of fictional plot, revolving around Kathy and her friends, and the war is only really mentioned as and when it impinges on them. And it certainly does impinge, in some devastating ways.

It's ideal if you want to pick up a bit of social history while reading a good story. At one point in the story, Kathy sings with a group touring around giving concerts to servicemen, a subject I knew very little about. The scenes felt realistic rather than researched, and I found myself appreciating the value of those who gave their time and talents to the entertainment industry during the war.

It's a story of hope, of determination, and of picking up the pieces after making mistakes. Kathy is a likeable girl and I found myself turning the pages of this book at night, long after I really should have been asleep.

So, on the whole my reaction was very positive.

My main problem with the book is that some of the minor characters seem unrealistic, and rather inconsistent. The supposedly strict and slightly strange aunt becomes a caring confidante; the jealous ex-girlfriend morphs into someone totally selfless. Other characters - such as Kathy's best friend's brother, who is in love with Kathy - seem rather flat and faceless. And Tony himself is a strange mixture of personalities. The story is mostly seen through Kathy's eyes, but she appears on the whole to be a good judge of character - so I don't think it's just that her first impressions are supposed to be wrong.

I also felt that there was just slightly too much of an unlikely coincidence in the climax of the book, but then again, I like books which have positive and hopeful endings, and that certainly happens in this book.

But overall, I would recommend it to anyone who likes light historical fiction.

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

If you like this genre of book, you might also like The Tinner's Daughter by Rosemary Aitken, or The River Flows On by Maggie Craig.

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