A tale of passion and empathy which will keep you hooked. Woman's Own
Genie Watkins, growing up in Birmingham, dreams of having a happy family like her Italian friend Teresa.
But it’s 1939 and Genie hasn’t reckoned with the outbreak of war, her already rocky family being split up and the strangely liberating effect it all has on her mother. Narrated in the cheeky, courageous voice of Genie, the disasters that follow display her powerful capacity for survival. Under skies darkened by blackout she tried to hold her family together, keeps up her spirits with her nan and her glamorous auntie Lil, shares her hopes and fears with Teresa, and amid it all, discovers love….
Family life seems set to be destroyed as violently as the city streets around them. But from the rubble come extraordinary surprises, glimpses of hope – and above all, a miraculous resilience.
After writing two books which both covered quite long periods I wanted to write a story set during the Second World War which really homed in on the experience of those early days of the ‘phoney’ war and the beginning of the Blitz. I find that once I start thinking about a story, ‘gifts’ begin to arrive, strands which come to me from various places and which I know are going to be part of it. One of the strongest in this case was music, and the importance of the wireless and how that became such a unifying element at that time. Someone described to me walking along a street one summer day during the war and hearing the same wireless broadcast coming out of virtually every open window…. I listened to a lot of songs and broadcasts from that period and in the end the family’s wireless, known as ‘Gloria’ is almost another character in the book.
Another aspect arose through Genie’s friend Teresa and the Italians in Birmingham, known especially for their trades in making terrazzo floors and ice cream in peace time and the fear of internment and the sinking of the ship Arandora Star in 1940, which had been carrying German and Italian internees to Canada.
There was an awful lot of factual detail to keep up with in writing this story and it was hard work, but I did enjoy, for a change, writing a story in the ‘first person,’ in Genie’s voice as she fights all the battles with which life presents her.