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Lavender Road (London at war) Hardcover – February 9, 1995
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'Helen Carey's characters are so real that they live on with you beyond the page. Warm, lively and enriching. Storytelling at its best.'
'Unputdownable!' Western Telegraph
'A sparkling bit of storytelling.' Evening Standard --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Author
When I was asked to write a novel set in the second world war, the publishers (Orion) originally wanted it set in the East End of London, but I had just moved to Clapham and I asked if I could set the story there. I had already noticed the number of newish houses built into the old Victorian terraced streets - a sign of the relentless bombing, and I wanted to try to recreate the atmosphere of wartime Clapham as a kind of tribute to the 'ordinary' people who lived and died during through those eventful, traumatic years.
I wanted to show how local people were affected by events in the wider world, in particular how the old social structures changed and how women suddenly and unexpectedly found themselves facing new challenges and opportunities. But my overriding aim was to make the books engaging and fun to read and for that I needed lively, compelling characters.
One of the key characters in Lavender Road is Jen Carter who came to me after an interview with the wonderful actress and singer, Mary Morland, already well in her eighties, who had blazed a trail on the London variety stage all through the war and for many years afterwards too. I wanted Jen's fantasy of becoming an actress, as a means of escaping from the family she despises, to make a nice contrast with the desperate efforts of her careworn mother to keep food on the family table. In the end Joyce, Jen's mother, actually became one of my favourite characters, I so much enjoyed creating her tentative relationship with the 'rich' Mrs Rutherford in the large house overlooking the common, and best of all is when she finally gives the ghastly Stanley (her violent, feckless husband) his come-uppance - but you have to wait for Some Sunny Day for that ... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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We begin with Jen Carter who wants to be an actress but has no training, just a high school drama at which the audience clearly connected to her very special acting and singing skills. Plus she's a great mimic. But home life is far from serene and she spends most of her time at home fighting with her mother, that is until she meets an Irish hunk of guy, Sean. Jen needs to be needed so does anything to make Sean happy, including sleeping with him anywhere and everywhere. But after numerous rejections and one very dangerous scene, opportunities open for Jen and she begins to find herself and think more of others unlike before. The hardships of war and pulling together in everyone's need cannot help but change Jen! And her mother breaks out of a very narrow world to become an actually very pleasant and interesting woman!
There's a rich girl who wants to meet a guy and be loved but finds only teases or nice guys who don't want to mar her "virgin" status. Or her father, who is so stuck in tradition that he drives away everyone he encounters. Perhaps you'd better like the man who can't fight in the war because of a weak physical condition but who does something so heroic it makes others look like cowards. There are also two elderly sisters who have trained and costumed famous actors and are far from stereotypical "little ol' ladies." Another handsome guy in the Royal Air Force tells everyone he's a pilot when in fact he's a spy for England undertaking highly dangerous missions, ones that make him grow old before his time.
Lavender Road is rich in so many diverse ways. It's a bit slow at times in the beginning but picks up a pace like wild fire about a quarter-way through and absolutely delightful. We read how women sought roles in the war that changed their images of themselves and made them better people for it, although it shook up the home territory. We see prejudice rear its ugly head against those who had escaped the slaughter of Hitler. There's so much more than what is contained in this review. Lavender Road is great historical fiction - a lovely slice of life in the East End of London during a very, very dangerous time! Kudos to Helen Carey for a job so well-done!
P. S. This reviewer's mother lived through the bombing of England in another city and so knows how very accurate the history is herein! Brought back memories of Mom's stories, funny and harrowing!
War torn London comes alive with those left at home. Helen Carey has opened the door to characters and personal stories with humor and sorrow. I loved the many intimate insights into the soul of the Londoners during this period. I am happy to continue in their journeys. Thank you!