Title: Secrets of the Homefront Girls
Author: Kate Thompson
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 25th July 2019
Britain may be at war, but on the home front keeping up morale and keeping up appearances go hand in hand. For the young women working on the lipstick production line at Yardley’s cosmetics factory, it’s business as usual.
Headstrong Renee Gunn is the queen of the lipstick belt – although her cheeky attitude means she’s often in trouble. When Esther, an Austrian refugee, arrives at Yardley’s, it’s Renee who takes her under her wing and teaches her to be a true cockney.
But outside of the factory, things are more complicated. Lily, Renee’s older sister, has suddenly returned home after six years away, and is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile Esther is finding life in England more difficult than expected, and it’s not long before Renee finds herself in trouble, with nowhere to turn.
In the face of the Blitz, the Yardley girls are bound together by friendship and loyalty – but could the secrets they are hiding be the biggest danger of all?
So, Secrets of the Homefront Girls is a bit different to my usual sort of read and I was really intrigued to see how much I would like it. Turns out it’s definitely good to get out of your reading comfort zone because I very much enjoyed this emotional and well-constructed story. Secrets of the Homefront Girls follows three young women at the start of the Second World War who work in famous beauty company, Yardley’s, factory. These girls work in the lipstick room which is full of a varied and feisty group of ladies. Each of our main characters, Lily, Renee and Esther have secrets and trials that they have had to overcome and plenty of struggles throughout the book, some caused by the war and some not.
The author does a really excellent job of creating an atmosphere right from the beginning. She makes you feel like you are right there in a poorer area of 1930/40s London, full of hectic families, saddening poverty and the famous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ British spirit. The person in charge of this particular area of London is tough matriarch, Nell Gunn, mother of Lily and Renee. She is a fantastic character who seems to be able to take almost anything in her stride and can deal with whatever situation arises with strength and fortitude. I loved all the complex familial relationships in the Gunn household, especially the connection between vivacious Renee and the more reserved Lily. There was also a really fascinating sub-plot surrounding their younger brother, Frankie, which added another dimension to the book.
The story itself has lots of twists and turns, some of which I saw coming and a few that really surprised me. It is an emotional book which will completely pull the reader in and I was sorry when it ended because I had become rather attached to these characters. I loved the juxtaposition between the youthful camaraderie of the girls on the Yardley lipstick line and the harsh realities of World War Two. The biggest strength of The Secrets of the Homefront Girls is that it beautifully demonstrates the power of women and of strong matriarchs who steadfastly support other women. I really enjoyed reading about these vibrant characters and their tumultuous lives and I would heartily recommend it.
Secrets of the Homefront Girls by Kate Thompson
I received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is my own, honest opinion.
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