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Novel set in pre-war London and Guernsey

11th December 2023

The Guernsey Girls by Mary Wood, novel set in pre-war London and Guernsey.

Novel set in pre-war London and Guernsey

This novel is set in the 1930s, in the run up to WW2 and opens in Cornwall, where Olivia is staying with her Aunt Rosina in a rambling house overlooking the cliffs. She is preparing to go and study languages, intending eventually to settle in Guernsey, where she will open a language school with her husband-to-be, Hendrick. Annie is working in a domestic capacity at the house; her family lives in Bethnal Green, so she is a long way from home and cannot afford to visit.

Olivia and Annie are paired on a trip by train to London but an unfortunate accident befalls them and they both spend a period in hospital. Olivia has sustained life-changing injuries. This period of convalescence provides ample opportunity for the two women, from different sides of the social track, to spend time bonding.

Novel set in pre-war London and GuernseyAnnie is bowled over by Olivia’s generosity and by her family’s support, there are so many heart-warming gestures towards her disabled mother, and her sister, who is the main carer. A wheel chair is provided to increase mobility and the family ensures an extra year’s wage for Annie is provided, as she lost everything in the accident. Annie cannot believe her glorious luck.

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Whilst she is back in London, a chance encounter with an old schoolfriend, Jimmy, seals her positive take on life, until part of her new life comes tumbling down….

This story is nicely set against the historical backdrop of the period, where war is brewing in Germany and Hendrick shares details of his family’s woes, back in his homeland of Germany. He is experiencing increasing mistrust in England, given his nationality. Might he be conscripted to fight on the German side, if war breaks out?

This is an enjoyable, uplifting story, mixed with sobering personal and international events – life certainly isn’t straightforward for the characters. Sometimes, however, I felt the characters were too quick to draw conclusions, just from observations, which felt like a fairly simple device to the move to story on to the next stage – for example Hendrick spots an exchange of glances between two people and immediately draws the correct conclusion, although there is no evidence from his point of view for his deduction  The Cockneys drop ‘luv’ in at every opportunity, which came to feel like an irksome over-use.

This is the first novel in a poignant new series, which I am sure will be very popular.

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  1. User: Leah Tonna

    Posted on: 11/12/2023 at 9:05 am

    I always enjoy Mary Wood/Maggie Mason books, easy to read & with well described characters. My daughter used to live & work in Guernsey, I loved to visit the island & its slightly old-fashioned pace of life.