We were so excited earlier this month when Kate Thompson’s latest book arrived on our desk! Published on the 25th July, we were delighted to receive an advanced copy which is now available to order here
Earlier this year, we invited Kate Thompson to come and visit us and tell us about her own secrets of how she finds inspiration, researches and writes her incredible books. The event was very successful in terms of turn out but also in terms of enabling us to get a real insight into what it is like to write historical fiction, about real-life events and people who have lived through some of the toughest times.
Kate’s talk showed the audience just how much energy goes into writing a book – from that first moment of inspiration and deciding to look further into a specific event or person to see if it’s possible to gather enough information to then create a story from, to those nerve-wracking publication days where authors are awaiting the first reviews coming in and wondering if they’ve done enough to publicise the novel (all whilst already working on the next book, too!)
I have enjoyed Kate’s books before, I have always found them to be very clever how they transport the reader back to a certain time, but I found Secrets of the Homefront Girls even more enjoyable due to the fact that I had been treated to such an insight into how Kate writes.
Secrets of the Homefront Girls is set during Second World War Britain and focuses on the lives of the women who are working at the Yardley factory in London. It is told from three different women’s perspectives; Renee, Lily (who are sisters) and Esther. The story tells us of what everyday life in a waring England was like, how the production lines in a beauty factory carried on, how beauty was important for women during this time as they were determined not to let Hitler take their love of self-care away from them.
But the story isn’t only about the war or making beauty products, there’s so much more to it. Lily hasn’t lived with her family for several years but has returned to work in the Yardley factory due to the war, but it’s clear that she has a secret, will Renee (her younger sister) ever work out the real reason why her sister left home six years ago? Their mother, known as Auntie to everyone within their community, is a headstrong matriarch with a huge character, who is also harbouring her own secrets which are set to cause ructions amongst the family. And what about Renee? Is she secret-free? You’ll just have to read the book to find out!
The characters within this novel are incredibly well crafted, as a reader, it was difficult to not care about each one of them. This is a great skill, sometimes I may read a novel and be really behind one of the characters or perhaps even two, to actually care about all of the main players within this book just shows how well Kate creates the characters. I can see how her insight into the people who have lived through the events and spoken first hand to them, has resulted in her being able to make such wonderful characters in her book.
I felt like the first half of the book was all about getting to know the characters, being aware of hints at secrets, getting a feel for what their community was like and how the war was beginning to impact them. This meant that I really got to absorb myself within their worlds ready for the second half of the book which was more action-packed and full of dramas with secrets unravelling, horrific scenes of war and lots of tense and emotional moments. Had I not have been so well acquainted with the story and characters during the first half, I would not have been so on the edge of my seat in the second half as I was!
There is also a good amount of good-natured humour within the pages of this novel as the girls celebrate a wedding of a fellow factory worker, uncover who the mysterious ‘lipstick thief’ is and the chatter which goes on amongst them all as they work. It helped to add lightness to a book which would otherwise have been too-heavy.
This is a wonderful saga, which draws you in to East End London life during the Second World War. It shows how community and feeling like you belong has so many benefits and it made me think how sad it is that we don’t actually have communities like this within towns very much anymore. It is a vivid and engaging insight that is full of emotions.
We highly recommend this book to those who love history, those who enjoy novels with brilliantly strong characters and those who are interested in beauty. This isn’t a plot-heavy book so it is also ideal for those who don’t want complicated storylines to follow or description-heavy chapters. Don’t forget to keep a tissue at the ready though – you may shed a tear or two along the way!
Secrets of the Homefront Girls is available to order now from Amazon. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Secrets-Homefront-Girls-Kate-Thompson-ebook/dp/B07KFKC12Q/