Sunday, 22 March 2020

Emma's Review: Triumph of the Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Sunderland, 1943: With the future of Britain uncertain, the shipyard girls fight to keep their lives on an even keel.

Head-welder Rosie is just about managing to keep her double life hidden from little sister Charlotte’s prying eyes. But Charlotte senses something is up and, with a secret this big, the truth is bound to come out.

After a whirlwind wedding, Polly must bid farewell to her sweetheart as he returns to the front line.

And there is something odd about yard manager Helen’s newest recruit Bel. But in resolving to uncover the truth, Helen might discover more than she bargained for…

Only by rallying together will the shipyard girls triumph.

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Many thanks to Random House UK via NetGalley for my copy of Triumph of the Shipyard Girls to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

Triumph of the Shipyard Girls is the eighth book in the Shipyard Girls series from Nancy Revell which follows the ups and downs, the good times and the bad, in the lives of a group of women welders who work in the shipyards in Sunderland during World War Two. With each book I just love this series more and more and as we are progressing further through the series we are moving away from descriptions of the women's daily work welding and the routines they have in the ship yard. This is a good thing as now I feel the author is really concentrating on the women's personal stories much more. Storylines that began maybe a book or two ago are getting great attention and focus now and I am enjoying how everything is developing with some of the most important threads being continued throughout each book.

I have become familiar with the pattern of the books as in each one concentrates on certain characters and then they may not feature much in the next instalment. It's a great way to keep the books fresh, interesting and gripping because if you haven't read much about a character as with this book I thought Gloria stepped out of the spotlight a bit you are more inclined to pick up the next book to see do they feature and get an update on them. Not that I wouldn't want to read any future books in this series as by this stage I am deeply invested in every plot, be it minor or major ,especially when it comes to Helen who runs the shipyard. She is one character who has undergone such a transformation from book one although admittedly for a while now my opinion on her has swayed back and forth quite regularly.

They say a leopard can never change its spots but the way Helen has been written she has gone against convention and has been a real surprise and turn up for the books. She has been through the mill and to be honest I don't think she is out the other side of it yet when it comes to both her love and family life. She is certainly a lot more compassionate and aware of other people's problems and feelings than when we first met her. This is demonstrated when she springs into action when she is the only one close to hand when Polly needs urgent help. Polly deserves some happiness after she has just married Tommy but is now left on her own as he has returned to Gibraltar. Only for Helen that happiness might have evaded her but how everything was handled was done so with tact and a real awareness of what the long term implications could be if care and advice was not heeded.

Helen steps up to the plate when needed and she wouldn't have done so in the past. It just shows how much she is changing and in a way she is facing the realities of the real world away from the privileged life she has lead. She is more down to earth and the strong shell she had so carefully constructed around herself is coming down. But that's not to say she is very laissez faire and always open now. She still keeps things close to her chest and recent heartache and trauma is never far from her mind and it is this anxiety and pain that prevents her from fully moving forward particularly in relation to Dr. John Parker. I really wish the two of them would just admit their feelings for each other because it is so obvious for all to see. But a lack of communication and an aspect of the ending to this book certainly sets the cat among the pigeons and it's as if happiness and true love is further out of Helen's reach now more so than ever.

I loved how Helen really was starting to grow up and become more aware of the bigger picture as to what is going when it comes to her family. I'm still waiting for that big show down with her mother Miriam though and I hope it will come soon as I detest the hold she has over so many of the women welders. The mystery element surrounding family relationships only intensified throughout the story and though some hard revelations for Helen to hear came to the fore I was glad things were coming out in the open. She can't believe what she is hearing as it throws everything she had ever known, believed in and thought into doubt. I love the way she is going about investigating things. She wants all her ammunition gathered together before she confronts the culprits because she knows the fall out will be huge, damaging and explosive. At the same time I admire the way she is handling what she is discovering about family secrets and hurts and I can't wait to see what is going to happen in the next book.

Of course, all the women in the group and their family members who show such solidarity and friendship to one another through the most turbulent of times do pop up every now and again in this new story but definitely the main focus is on both Helen and Rosie. I thought Rosie's aspect of the overall storyline was brilliant and the fact that every now and again we had recollections of her past interspersed throughout the present day chapters was excellent. It gave great insight into her past for new readers but also helped refresh the memories of those who have been with the shipyard girls since the first book. These sections gave a great observations into why Rosie is such a driven person and why she had to go down the path she did. Also as to why she has kept everything secret from her younger sister Charlotte. She has gotten herself into a bit of a tangle now that Charlotte is back living with her after her experiences at boarding school. Rosie is threading a very thin line when it comes to keeping things hush hush and perhaps she doesn't give Charlotte enough credit in that she may be able to cope with the truth and it might just do her some good to know the extent of what went on in the past and why Rosie made the decisions that she did. There was a sense throughout the story that things were going to come to a head regarding this plot which has been bubbling away right from the very beginning. I wondered would everything in her life that Rosie has made such a positive effort to construct around herself come crashing down or would she be kicking herself that she hadn't been that little bit more honest and open?

Triumph of the Shipyard Girls was another very enjoyable read in the series and as the war rages on so too do the trials, adversity, worries and afflictions that each girl is affected by. But amidst it all they stand together as one unit, one force all determined to play their part in stopping the war but also aiding each other with the issues and dilemmas they face in their personal lives. They are navigating uncertain times in all senses of the word but they never give up on life they just keep going because they know they have no other option but to keep calm and carry on.

The ending for this book without doubt has been the best in the series so far. What an absolute cliffhanger of a discovery that really springs open Pandora's box and allows seedlings to be planted for many new strands of the story to be developed over the course of future books. I am dying to find out what is going on and why is there another big secret. Unfortunately I'll have to hold out until October until A Christmas Wish for the Shipyard Girls is published but I am sure it will be more than worth the wait.

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