07 Apr Wedding Bells for the Victory Girls by Joanna Toye
This post WWII saga offers hope for a brighter future
Before I begin this blogtour review, I’ll have to put my hands up and confess I haven’t read any of the Shop Girl series, of which this is the final story in the saga.
But guess what? It didn’t matter! The narrative flows so easily that I was drawn into the lives of Dora, Lily, Gladys and Beryl within a few pages, and thanks to deft writing from author Joanna Toye, who casually dropped through dialogue anything that might be important to know, soon caught up with the background without feeling I’d missed out on anything.
True to the promise of its title, the story opens with a wedding – Lily is marrying her sweetheart Jim. They met at Marlows Department store where they both work, Jim in household goods, Lily in the children’s department, a job she loves.
Though WWII has ended, times continue to be hard, with rationing still in place and a shortage of housing, so Lily and Jim set up home with Lily’s widowed mother Dora.
Her friend Gladys, husband Bill and small twins live with family, too – Gladys’s irascible and hypochondriac grandmother, who makes life hard at times. Gladys’s woes are compounded by the fact that newly-demobbed Bill can’t find work locally and is often away from home.
Their close friend Beryl once worked with them at Marlow’s but now runs her own wedding dress business out of Marlows, paying a peppercorn rent.
But with the end of war, changes are coming to Marlows that threaten Beryl’s business as the company makes plans for the future. Past employees are returning, too – including glamorous Nancy, whom Bill seems to take a shine, to, much to Lily’s dismay.
The scene is set for a story of ordinary life with all its ups and downs – it’s the people who make it extraordinary. Their quest for happiness, even normality, will keep you turning the pages.
The characters here are super – none is saint nor a sinner. They’re just folk like you and me living their life in the best way possible. Tragedy strikes occasionally, and emotions run high, but there is humour, too, and the story never loses its strong message of hope for the future after six long years of war.
I think I chose a great time to read this book! When the war ended, hopes were high – just as they are for us as we emerge from the pandemic. It’s tempting to expect life now to be easy and happy, but the experiences of Lily, Beryl, Gladys and Dora remind us that joy in life comes from the little things as well as the big, and that friendship and family are what is truly important, along with community values.
That strong sense of community in the story makes every character, from Lily and Jim to the more minor folk, come to life in this story. But it’s the close friendship of the three girls that draw us in the most.
The daily challenges they face pull them together ever more tightly in a story that’s filled with ups and downs, joys and sorrows, separations and reunions, laughter and tears and a real sense of new beginnings for everyone.
And of course there is romance, with all its complications. Will everyone get their happy-ever-after? Grab your copy to find out.
You won’t be disappointed …
Wedding Bells for the Victory Girls by Joanna Toye is published by HarperFiction in paperback RRP £7.99
About the Author
Joanna Toye is a seasoned author who joined the production team of THE ARCHERS after reading English at Cambridge University, and became a scriptwriter for the programme for over twenty years. She has also written a number of spin-off books about the long-running radio drama.
On television, she has written for CROSSROADS, DOCTORS and EASTENDERS.
Thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on this blogtour and to publisher HarperFiction for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Catch up with the rest of the blogtour at the links on the poster