#blogtour – Brighter Days Ahead by Mary Wood @AuthorMary @panmacmillan @greenkatie #extract #bookreview
I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour today for Brighter Days Ahead by Mary Wood. Thank you to Katie Green from Pan Macmillan for the review copy and the place on the tour.
If you like a good saga then you’ll love this one. Mary herself has said a saga “is a celebration of the women who went before us and paved the way through their courage and suffering, so that we, the women of today, do have a voice.” I’d never thought about the definition of a saga before but I realise now how apt it is.
So what’s it about?
War pulled them apart, but can it bring them back together?
Molly lives with her repugnant father, who has betrayed her many times. From a young age, living on the
streets of London’s East End, she has seen the harsh realities of life . . . When she’s kidnapped by a gang and forced into their underworld, her future seems bleak.
Flo spent her early years in an orphanage, and is about to turn her hand to teacher training. When a kindly teacher at her school approaches her about a job at Bletchley Park, it could be everything she never knew she wanted.
Will the girls’ friendship be enough to weather the hard times ahead?
I do enjoy a good saga. Generally they’re so easy to read, so full of warmth and wonderful characters. Brighter Days Ahead is a great example of a really good saga.
We meet Molly Winters and Flo Kilgallon. They’re the two main characters and yet they don’t meet until around the half way point. Up until then we are introduced to them and their lives. Neither had an easy start but whilst Flo is on the way up, poor Molly is about to have a very difficult time.
What initially drew me to this book in particular was the Bletchley Park angle to Flo’s storyline. It always sounds like it was such an amazing place to be during World War 2. Actually, this bit of the story is only a small part of it and I found that I loved all of the aspects to the girls’ tales and the friendships that they make.
Mary Wood doesn’t hold back on the shocks. This is no fluffy tale, it’s quite hard-hitting in places and I was quite surprised by some of the turns of events in what I kind of expected to be a bit more of a cosy yarn, but I loved it and because I cared about the characters it probably hit me harder when the more shocking things happened.
There’s a real warmth to Wood’s writing. She has created some fabulous characters. Molly and Flo are both feisty and brave, full of fighting spirit. And I have to say that I loved Flo’s very northern accent and found myself saying some of her passages out loud (I’m northern but nowhere near as broad as Flo!).
A saga like this is a book I can rely on to give me a really good read, warm the cockles of my heart and have me heaving a huge sigh of satisfaction when I get to the last page and close the book.
Now for a lovely extract from chapter 2 in which we meet Flo. She’s a Leeds lass and is reet broad! I loved her accent throughout the story, you knaw.
An Unknown Future
‘Eeh, Mr Godfern, have you heard the news?’ Flo shook her raincoat out the door as she spoke to the owner of the chemist’s shop – her boss and benefactor for the last seven years.
‘Whatever it is, close that door, Flo. The rain’s coming inside.’
The door shut after a moment of scraping on the flagstone floor. Wet weather always made it stick. ‘They’re putting out warnings to Londoners to take any siren seriously and to seek shelter. They say Biggin Hill’s been attacked, and that London’s going to be next. By, I feel sorry for the poor folk, if that happens.’
‘Aye, so do I. But to listen to them Londoners caught up in that bombing a few days ago, they know Churchill bombed Berlin to avenge them, so they’re not putting the blame on him. I heard some of them being interviewed on the wireless. They talk of standing against all Hitler can throw at them. You have to admire them. They say as we’re tough up here in Leeds, but we have nowt on them lot. Taking it on the chin, they are, and all helping each other. Makes you proud, but I fear what’ll happen.’ His head shook as if in despair. But then he smiled. ‘Mind, it’s not all doom and gloom, thou knaws, lass. There’s a letter come for you, and it’s a brown one at that.’
For a moment Flo caught her breath. Excitement, mixed with worry, churned her insides. ‘Is it from them?’
‘How many brown letters are you expecting then? I reckon as you’ll have to open it to make sure, but I’d like to bet you a florin it is.’
Laughing with him, Flo took the letter being held out to her. There, printed in bold letters above the address of the chemist’s shop, she read: ‘PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL, Miss Florence Kilgallon’. Once again her nerves jolted and longing flooded through her. Please let me have passed me exams.
Finding that she had, and in particular her maths exam, with a mark of 100 per cent, she let out a loud ‘Whoopee’ and did a little dance. The clanging of the doorbell sobered her, as did the voice of the hypochondriac Mrs Hardacre: ‘There’s a war on, thou knows, and some of us have nowt to sing about. Me legs have given me gyp all neet. Eeh, I wish I had your legs, Flo, but me dancing days are over. What’s made you so happy, lass?’
‘Oh, sommat and nowt. Now, what can I get you, Mrs Hardacre? Sommat to soothe your aches and pains?’
‘If only you could, but . . .’
As Mrs Hardacre droned on, Flo let her mind go back to the letter. Now she had a chance of gaining entry to the teacher-training college to fulfil her dream. She had Mr Godfern to thank for it all. It had been a good day when she’d gained the position here. She’d seen the advert in his shop window: Wanted, an assistant of reasonable intelligence and of good manner. Well, she had both of those qualities, but the first hadn’t been proven, as of then.
Born at the back end of 1918 and now almost twenty-two years old, Flo had experienced the death of both her mammy and her pappy within six months of her birth. Her dad had been run over by a truck and killed instantly when she was six weeks old, and they said that her mammy had been brought so low that she was taken by a fever against which she had no resistance. They had been Irish immigrants and had lived in an area known as The Bank, near Richmond Road in Leeds. The Mount of St Mary’s Convent Orphanage stood there too and had become Flo’s home until she’d turned thirteen and had been put out to board with Mrs Leary.
A kindly Irish lady, Mrs Leary had taken many a young lass in after they’d reached the age of having to leave the convent. Flo had heard good things about how well she’d treated them and they’d all proved to be true, though she’d been shocked on the second day when Mrs Leary had said, ‘You’re all settled in here now, Flo, so I’m for thinking that we’ll be after taking a walk around the town and getting you a job today.’
Flo had expected to be carrying on at school until she was fourteen, but had known that if you had a job to go to, once you were in your last year, then the school released you. Mrs Leary couldn’t see any benefit in those of working class getting an education and, no matter how much Flo protested, Mrs Leary was having none of it. ‘You’ve to work and get yourself set up, and then you’ll be ready to take all that life has a mind to throw at you.’ She’d gone on to say, ‘Isn’t it that the Good Lord rewards those who take care of themselves? And that is the aim of this house – to get you standing on your own two feet – so it is.’
As it had turned out, Mrs Leary had been right. Another year at school couldn’t have given Flo what she’d gained by working for Mr Godfern.
Mrs Hardacre’s nudge and her comment, ‘Eeh, it’s okay for some, daydreaming away,’ brought Flo out of her thoughts.
‘Oh, sorry, love – you were saying about your legs?’
‘Too late. Mr Godfern’s seen to me. By, lass, you’ll have to look lively. Folk want attention, thou knows.’
Smiling and apologizing did the trick. Even though Mrs Hardacre still admonished her, Flo could hear a lightness and fondness in the woman’s tone that belied what she said.
‘And there’s no use in flashing those lovely Irish eyes at me, either! Go on with you. You’re your dad all over. You even look like him.’
This had been said to her many times. Flo wished she had a photograph of her mum and dad to compare herself to them, but all she had to go on was what the Irish folk in the community told her. ‘Your mammy was a good woman, small and gentle and kind; and your pappy was for being a good man, too. A fine-looking man. You have his looks, with your chestnut-brown hair and Irish-blue eyes. You’re as tall as him. Is it nearly six foot that you are? And your nose, me bonny lass, is just the same as his. He’ll never be gone whilst you draw your breath, so he won’t.’ Flo longed to have known her mammy and pappy.
‘Go on then, lass, how did you do? Mr Godfern’s impatient tone brought Flo’s attention back to her wonderful exam results.
Sharing the good news with Mr Godfern, she finished by saying, ‘Eeh, it were your help with all those complicated equations that did it. And – and, well, I’ll never be able to thank you. You paying me fees to attend night-school and, these last weeks, giving me a day off to study for me exams is what got me this far. I’ll pay you back every penny it cost you, I promise.’
‘Naw, I’ll have none of that. Your determination to succeed was all the payment I needed. But, Flo, I – I’m sorry, but your ambition to become a teacher ain’t going to be easy. And . . . well, you always knew that my Elizabeth was in university, training to become a pharmacist.’
‘I know. She’ll be qualified soon and will be here to help you, and then you won’t be in need of me any more. You’ve prepared me for when that happens. And it’s all worked out well, as with me qualifications I can look at going to college, as we’ve allus planned. Me tutor, Mr Dinkworth, will help me find one that trains teachers.’
‘Look, as I see it, that will be costly, and you won’t be able to work and earn money while you study, as you’ll have to attend college full time. I reckon as you’ll be better served thinking about finding a well-paid job for a couple of years. That’ll set you up, so that you can support yourself. Besides, becoming a teacher ain’t everything. I reckon as you should try a few things first.’
This shocked Flo, for there’d been an understanding that Mr Godfern would continue to support her through college. Her heart sank as she asked, ‘Is there sommat as you want to tell me, Mr Godfern?’
She saw his body shift in a way that told of his discomfort. Turning from her, he adjusted a few bottles on the shelf behind him. His voice held regret when he spoke. ‘Things change, lass. You see, Elizabeth left university at the start of summer and has been taking a break, but she’s home now and needs to begin working here, with a view to it being hers one day. I – I could keep you on for a bit, though. Until she learns the ropes, that is.’
‘While I look for more work, you mean?’ Though he hadn’t admitted it, Flo thought that more had changed than simply Elizabeth being ready to come to work immediately. What Mr Godfern was saying didn’t sound like the plan to see her through college and then for her to pay him back whatever it had cost him, once she had a post as a teacher.
‘Aye. I’m sorry, lass. But things haven’t worked out financially for me. The recession hit me hard.’
‘Don’t ever be sorry, Mr Godfern. What you’ve done for me I’ll allus be grateful for. I’ll be reet. I can get set on at the munitions factory.’
‘Naw, that wouldn’t do at all. It’s well paid, I’ll give you that, but it’d stifle you. That’s happening here, as it is. You’re a clever lass and you need something that will stimulate you. Leave it with me. I’ll ask around and see what I can come up with.’
Please do follow the tour and visit the other blogs taking part.
Born in Maidstone, Kent, in 1945, the thirteenth child of fifteen children, Mary’s family settled in Leicestershire after the war ended.
Mary married young and now, after 54 years of happy marriage, four children, 12 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren, Mary and her husband live in Blackpool during the summer and Spain during the winter – a place that Mary calls, ‘her writing retreat’.
After many jobs from cleaning to catering, all chosen to fit in with bringing up her family, and boost the family money-pot, Mary ended her 9 – 5 working days as a Probation Service Officer, a job that showed her another side to life, and which influences her writing, bringing a realism and grittiness to her novels
Mary first put pen to paper, in 1989, but it wasn’t until 2010 that she finally found some success by self-publishing on kindle.
Being spotted by an editor at Pan Macmillan in 2013, finally saw Mary reach her publishing dream.
When not writing, Mary enjoys family time, reading, eating out, and gardening. One of her favourite pastimes is interacting with her readers on her Facebook page.
Mary welcomes all contact with her readers and feedback on her work.
Author bio and picture taken from the author's Amazon page.