The Surplus Girls by Polly Heron

The Suplusgirls.1

About the Book

After the loss of war, can there be hope for the future?

Manchester, 1922.

Belinda Layton is a surplus girl. One of the many women whose dreams of marriage perished in the Great War, with the death of her beloved fiancé, Ben. After four years of mourning, she’s ready to face the future, even though Ben’s family is not happy to see her move on, and her own only cares about getting hold of her meagre factory wages.

Then, Belinda joins a secretarial class and a whole new world opens up to her as she quickly finds herself drawn to beguiling bookshop owner Richard Carson. But after all the loss and devastation she has experienced, can she really trust him with her heart?

What I thought

It’s lovely to be asked by any author if you would like to read and review their new book.  Polly Heron is the pen name of Susanna Bavin, who I’m sure many readers of historical saga’s will be familiar with.  So I felt very honoured to be reading a real physical paperback copy of her first book with her new publisher Corvus books written under a new name.

I really enjoy learning about our more recent history.  Never a fan of history when I was at school, Kings, Queens, battles none of that ever interested me.  Once history arrives at the nineteenth/ early twentieth century I seem to sit up and take note and I especially like social history.  As well as that, the fact the book is set in Manchester also appeals to me as that is where I was born and have lived all my life.

I’d never heard of the term Surplus Girls before and I imagine it must have felt quite hurtful at the time to be referred to in this way.  Many of these very young women had lost fiance’s and husbands in the war and faced a future of uncertainty with little prospect of moving on or being able to financially support themselves.

Belinda Layton the protagonist, is one such young woman who has lost her fiance.  She moved out of her family home after her fiance Ben was killed in the Great War to live with Ben’s mother and grandmother, known to Bel as Auntie Enid and Grandma Beattie.  Belinda’s own home was overcrowded with a sister and several brothers still living at home.  Belinda’ father liked to fritter away any spare money they had at the pub and there was little money left to feed the family and pay the rent.

There are a lot of supporting characters in the book from varying backgrounds.  Belinda’s humble beginnings started as a cotton mill worker before she took the momentous decision to leave and try to better herself by joining a newly formed secretarial school.  The story behind the formation of the secretarial school was equally fascinating, run by two middle aged spinsters who were trying to save their home and keep a roof over their head, constantly trying to outwit their greedy brother who would gladly have left them with nothing.

There are so many different story threads going on in this book which makes it entertaining and compelling.  So many disputes going on throughout, and most of them over money and property.  It is very reflective of real life in that many families have fallen out throughout the generations over wills and legacies and who should get what and this story covers that aspect of life brilliantly.

It highlights the differences between the working class and the wealthier middle classes at the time so well.  There is lots of dialogue in the book which I really like.  It was almost like listening to a radio play except I was reading it and doing all the voices.

There are funny moments, tender moments, great sadness at times and great tension in one part towards the end. There is also a little romance in there for good measure but not too much which suits me fine.  An absolutely brilliant book which I really enjoyed reading.

I understand this is the first book in a trilogy of stories about the Surplus Girls and I’m really looking forward to the next one.

♥ Happy Reading ♥

Thank you to Polly Heron and the publishers Corvus for my review copy of the book.

At the date of posting this review the Kindle edition of this book is only £1.19 on Amazon – bargain!  The book is also available in paperback. 

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