Published by Penguin (Michael Joseph)
Publication Date: 28 June 2018 (Paperback)
The life of a Bomb Girl isn’t usually glamourous. But Maggie is getting married, so she is going to make sure her wedding day is – even if she does have to spend every other day slaving on the factory floor.
This blasted factory was not what Julia had in mind either. She had always dreamed of attending Oxford University rather than getting her hands dirty and the easy laughter of the other women intimidate her badly.
But they are all here together in this munitions factory in a Lancashire mill town, sharing firsts, pitching in and getting on. These Bomb Girls are going to do their best at work, and in love.
1. New Digs
Flushed, hot and excited, Maggie and Nora staggered
into the cowshed, a modernized farm building that the Phoenix Munitions Factory had requisitioned to accommodate some of their residential female workers. Bearing bulging shopping bags and heavy suitcases, they were red in the face and gasping for breath.
‘I’ve packed everything but the kitchen sink!’ Nora
giggled as she collapsed on the sofa, which Rosa, already a resident of the cowshed, quickly vacated.
Keen to share her home with her best friends, she
gave both girls a quick kiss. ‘Benvenuto, welcome!’
‘I’m too tired to understand Italian, our kid, just put
kettle on for a brew,’ Maggie said affectionately to Rosa, who, though Italian, now spoke English with a heavy Lancashire accent and understood all the idioms her workmates used, though she still kept to Italian endearments for the ones she loved best.
‘Certo, cara,’ Rosa replied, as she quickly put the little
black kettle on top of the wood-burning stove that kept the cowshed warm and cosy all through the cold winter months. ‘Promise me you two won’t squabble when you’re sharing a bedroom together,’ she teased.
‘I’m so happy to be here I’d agree to anything,’ Nora
admitted with her sweet, gap-toothed smile.‘I’ll never
get over mi dad allowing me to leave home and come
up here to live on’tmoors with mi best friends,’she said with a rush of pure joy. ‘I feel right proper grown up now,’ she announced, as she handed round a packet of Woodbines.
Maggie eagerly accepted a cigarette, but Rosa pre-
ferred to roll one of her own strong-tasting cheroots.
‘Mi mother couldn’t get me out of house quick
enough,’Maggie confessed.‘I know I’ve been driving
her and mi dad round the bend and back again since me and Les got engaged.’
‘You can say that again!’ Nora exclaimed. ‘It’s wed-
ding this and wedding that with you these days.’
‘So?’ an aggrieved Maggie cried. ‘A girl only gets
married once in her life.’ ‘If she’s lucky,’ Rosa said sceptically. Seeing a hurt expression flash across her friend’s happy, glowing face, Rosa quickly adjusted her comment. ‘Though I am quite sure in the case of you and Les, your marriage will last a lifetime, carissima.’
When the little kettle whistled on the stove, Rosa
brewed the tea, which she then poured into mugs. ‘A
letter arrived from Gladys today,’ she told her friends
excitedly. ‘It’s to all of us,’ she added, as she drew the envelope out of her cardigan pocket.
‘Oh, read it out,’ Nora implored. ‘I miss her so much.’
‘Me too,’Maggie said.‘But, you know, we should be
grateful for small mercies: if it weren’t for Gladys going to London, we’d never be living here in the cowshed.’
All three girls smiled a little sadly as they recalled
darling Gladys with her long, dark-mahogany brown
hair and brilliant deep-blue eyes dancing round the
cowshed in her new nurse’s uniform. She’d had to re-
train as a nurse when her skin reacted violently to the cordite she handled daily. She’d struggled at first, but it turned out Gladys loved her new job, was born for it, in fact. She’d done so well she’d been offered a job working alongside her handsome boyfriend, Dr Reggie Lloyd, at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. But taking up that position had left an empty space not just in the cow-shed, where she’d lived happily for almost two years,but in her friends’ hearts too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daisy Styles grew up in Lancashire surrounded by a family and community of strong women whose tales she loved to listen to. It was from these women, particularly her vibrant mother and Irish grandmother, that Daisy learned the art of storytelling. There was also the landscape of her childhood – wide, sweeping, empty moors and hills that ran as far as the eye could see – which was a perfect backdrop for a saga, a space big enough and wild enough to stage a drama, one about women’s lives during the Second World War.