I had the real pleasure this week of some on-line chatting with Melanie Price from Head of Zeus/Aria Fiction, and she was telling me about some of their excellent recent and forthcoming books. This is one I thought looked like a lovely read, and might really appeal to some of my readers – Hattie’s Home by Mary Gibson was published on 2nd November, and is available via Amazon, iBooks, for Kobo, and via Googleplay.
Three very different women struggle against incredible hardship in post-war South London.
Hattie, a rising star in the ATS, finds herself relegated to the factory floor on her return from the war. Her work mates are unforgiving at Hattie’s attempt to raise herself up and she is soon ostracised. After journeying across the world to Australia to marry her husband, Clara is betrayed and returns penniless, homeless and trying to raise a child in the face of prejudice. Lou, a war widow, has lost more than most in the war. Her daughter and parents are dead, killed in a bomb blast on an air raid shelter. By day, she works at the factory, by night she roams the bombsites half mad with grief.
These women will forge a bond that will ultimately allow each of them to overcome crippling grief, harsh prejudice and post-war deprivation to find hope in a better tomorrow for themselves and their children.
Doesn’t that look just wonderful? Let me share an extract…
The baby’s eyes were rich brown, speckled gold and amber, like a thrush’s breast. She had a button version of her father’s bridgeless nose and the black curls, coiled like tiny springs on her small round head, were a looser version of his. Her golden-brown skin seemed to glow with the light of those sun-blessed days the child had known in her early weeks. But today, Australia, the place of her baby’s birth, seemed as far away to Clara Young as the sun itself. Clara hoped that under Bermondsey’s leaden sky, her daughter Martha’s skin would not pale. But perhaps life would be easier for her here if it did.
Martha had a sunny smile, which began in her eyes, crinkling at the edges then almost closing, as with a shy turn of her head the cupid’s bow mouth broadened until her little face was lit with joy. Every time she saw it, Clara’s heart hurt with love and she wanted nothing more than to preserve that smile, so that it would never be spurned, never be dimmed. But she knew that in this place, the chances of that were slim.
The baby nestled into Clara’s breast, perhaps sensing her mother’s foreboding as she approached her old home in the Square. Feeling a wave of nausea rise in her throat, she almost turned back, but Martha looked up at that moment, with eyes full of unquestioning trust and undisguised dependence. Clara would swallow any amount of pride or fear not to disappoint that trust, and so, though her knees were weak as water and her mouth dry as an Australian desert, she knocked on her parents’ front door, refusing to quail when her mother took one look at the bundle in her arms and exclaimed, ‘Well, that takes the cake, she’s only come home with a brown baby!’ And she slammed the door in Clara’s face.
Clara knocked hard on the door, startling Martha, who tried, unsuccessfully, to raise her head from the folds of the blanket. Clara was grateful the child couldn’t see the look on her grandmother’s face as she reopened the door.
‘We told you when you married him you wasn’t welcome here no more. Just because he’s sent you home with his bastard, don’t make no difference. You broke your father’s heart when he found out you was nothing but a common slut… and I’ll never forgive you for it.’ She was about to close the door when Clara shot out a foot to stop it. She held the baby up.
‘Mum!’ she pleaded. ‘Just look at her, see how beautiful she is!’
But her plea ended with a sob. Martha’s mouth turned down, her lower lip trembled as, sensing Clara’s distress, she began to cry. Clara’s mother’s expression softened a little at the baby’s cry.
‘You can come in,’ she said brusquely. ‘He’s not back from the parish meeting.’
Her father was a regular attender at the church in the middle of the Square and proud of his position on the parish council. It had been a particular hardship for him to put up with the earnest, well-meaning sympathy of his fellow parishioners when Clara had first taken up with Barry. She breathed a sigh of relief he was out and hoped the parish meeting would be a long one. She followed her mother inside, shushing the baby as she went.
‘You can stay for a cup of tea, but I can’t have you here when he comes home, Clara. He won’t have you in the house.’ She looked at her daughter with resigned disappointment, as Clara put her cheek against the baby’s to soothe her crying.
‘You’ve made a rod for your own back there.’ Her mother nodded towards the child.
As her grandmother made tea, Martha’s curiosity was piqued and she attempted to pull herself up, examining, with wide, questioning eyes, first Mrs Young then the teapot. Clara smiled with pride at her daughter’s forwardness and looked to her mother for approval, ‘See, Mum, she can already pull herself up.’ But she was crushed by a look of disapproval.
‘She looks like him. You’ll have no life. No feller’s going to look at you now, not with a bastard brown baby in tow,’ she said. Clara felt the words sting like a whip and pulled her child closer.
‘Don’t call her that. I’m married. My baby’s not a …’ She couldn’t bring herself to say the word.
‘That’s exactly what she is!’ Her father’s voice made Clara jump and she twisted her head round to see him standing in the kitchen doorway. He looked through her and addressed his wife. ‘What’s she doing here?’
Mrs Young stood up, smoothing her pinafore as if she were soothing her husband’s ire.
‘I’ve told her you won’t let her stay. But she’s got the baby now, Arthur… our granddaughter.’
Oh, I love it already – and maybe you will too…
About the author
Mary Gibson was brought up in Bermondsey, London – the setting for her novels, Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts, Jam & Roses, and Gunner Girls and Fighter Boys. Find out more about Mary and her writing through her website.
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