ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – The Jam Factory Girls by Mary Wood

I’m sharing my thoughts today about The Jam Factory Girls by Mary Wood. I love everything this author has written and this book is a fabulous read. My thanks to Pan Macmillan who sent me a copy of the book for review purposes.

The Jam Factory Girls is an uplifting and emotional novel of friendship set in the heart of pre-WWI London from bestselling author, Mary Wood.

Life for Elsie is difficult as she struggles to cope with her alcoholic mother. Caring for her siblings and working long hours at Swift’s Jam factory in London’s Bermondsey is exhausting. Thankfully her lifelong friendship with Dot helps to smooth over life’s rough edges.

When Elsie and Dot meet Millie Swift, they are nervous to be in the presence of the bosses’ daughter. Over time, they are surprised to feel so drawn to her, but should two East End girls be socializing in such circles?

When disaster strikes, it binds the women in ways they could never imagine. Long-held secrets are revealed that could change all their lives . . .

I always love a Mary Wood book and The Jam Factory Girls is no exception. The start of a brand new trilogy, it’s full of the author’s usual warmth.

The girls of the title are Elsie and Dot who work at Swift’s Jam Factory in Bermondsey. Life is hard there and the women are not treated very well. Conditions are dangerous and they are expected to work overtime for nothing. Home life is not much better, living from hand to mouth in cramped surroundings. There is a third Jam Factory Girl: Millie Hawkesfield, the daughter of the owner. Against the odds, the three young women become fast friends but fate has quite a lot in store for them.

Mary Wood does tend to put her characters through a lot of trials and tribulations and Elsie, Dot and Millie don’t get let off lightly. I did feel though that this book had plenty of good times to balance out the bad ones. Although each of the characters has some very tough and heartbreaking situations to endure, their friendship and their family relationships help them through it and I always love the way that Wood portrays the camaraderie between her characters.

With the book starting in 1910 I found it really interesting to read of the uprising amongst female workers in the various jam factories. The author did research into this and it was brilliant to see the workers coming out in force to campaign for better conditions and pay, and seeing the benefit of what was effectively a union.

I loved this story. I enjoyed reading about the workings of the jam factory, and the contrasts between upper class Millie and the working class Elsie and Dot were really well-drawn. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to them next in the second book in the trilogy, Secrets of the Jam Factory Girls.

Born the thirteenth child of fifteen to a middle-class mother and an East End barrow boy, Mary Wood’s childhood was a mixture of love and poverty. Throughout her life Mary has held various posts in office roles, working in the Probation services and bringing up her four children and numerous grandchildren, step-grandchildren and great-grandchildren. An avid reader, she first put pen to paper in 1989 whilst nursing her mother through her last months, but didn’t become successful until she began self-publishing her novels in 2011.

Her novels include All I Have to Give, An Unbreakable Bond, In Their Mother’s Footsteps, The Breckton Novels and The Girls Who Went to War quartet.

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