16 Mar The Paper Mill Girl by Glenda Young
A super saga with a sparky heroine
There are plenty top names in the saga genre, and Glenda Young is a relative newcomer, but she has certainly made her mark with her series of stand-alone stories set in the mining village of Ryhope in the North East of England.
The Paper Mill Girls takes us to 1919 and introduces us to 17-year-old Ruth Hardy, who works in the rag room at Grange Paper Works.
Life is hard for Ruth – after a long day sorting rags for paper production she returns home to the room above the pub where she lives with her disabled father, poorly mother and feisty younger sister Bea, cooking, cleaning and washing for them all before falling into bed exhausted then rising to face another day.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Ruth has chums at the factory, Edie and Jane, and there’s a young chap on the scene, too – handsome Mick Carson, who’s always finding excuses to drop into the rag room.
Bea is courting, too – but her young man, Jimmy Tate, is a ne-er-do-well from a disreputable family, and his presence spells trouble for the Hardy family.
But through troubles, challenges and tragedies, Ruth manages to keep her spirits up and her head held high, whether dealing with Jimmy’s drunken mother, the unpleasant John Hepple in the rag room or the hard-as-nails landlady who holds the threat of eviction over the family’s head.
Somehow she survives it all – but can she thrive in this environment? And will putting duty before love destroy any lasting chance of happiness?
This story has all the ingredients any saga lover could wish for – poverty, hardship, illness, danger, and a baby who must be cared for at all costs. It’s action packed as Ruth careens from one challenge to the next. But there’s friendship, too, and romance of course
While there’s plenty conflict to be resolved, it’s the characters that make this story truly thrilling. Not just trustworthy, responsible, loyal Ruth but her family, friends, employers and enemies are all fleshed into life. Jimmy Tate and his family are perhaps a tad two-dimensional, but I can’t make that complaint about any of the others. From Bea to Mick to Sarah, daughter of the factory owner – they’re all convincing, empathetic characters with their own strengths and flaws, and their own stories to tell.
Put them together in the atmospheric soup of Ryhope and its surrounding area where mines jostle with factories, the poor and the rich live separate, but occasionally intertwining lives, and everyone is striving for a better life for their families and you have a compelling story of life, love and ultimately hope for our strong and likeable heroine, Ruth.
The Paper Mill Girl is published by Headline in paperback, RRP £6.99
About the Author
Glenda Young is the author of five saga novels set in Ryhope and also writes a weekly soap, Riverside, in The People’s Friend magazine.