disclosure: we were sent the item mentioned in exchange for an honest review
I do enjoy reading stories based in the past and I knew within the first chapter of reading The Surplus Girls by Polly Heron, that this was just my kind of novel. Published through Corvus last week, this is the first book in a series of three novels telling the story of three different Surplus Girls during the early 1920s.
In The Surplus Girls, it’s 1922 and we meet Belinda Layton, she lives in Manchester and her fiancee Ben was killed in the First World War. Like so many young women at that point in time, her dreams of marriage and happy family life have been left in tatters. She’ll need to make her own way going forward and we watch as she discovers more about herself and strives to improve herself.
She’s been living with Ben’s mother and grandmother for a number of years and has spent the last four years in deep mourning, dressed in black from head to toe. Belinda realises as she approaches her 21st birthday that as much as she loves Ben, she’s ready for a little colour in her life but is scared of the reaction from his family.
Ben’s Mum got her a job working in the mill but Belinda is desperate to get out and a chance meeting with an old teacher inspires her to widen her horizons. Her family are struggling to make ends meet, her father has led them into a downward spiral of poverty and they rely on Belinda to supplement the wages coming into the home. When she has the opportunity to start a secretarial class everyone is against the idea. Ben’s family aren’t ready for her to move forward with her life, and her own family are worried that if she leaves the mill, she’ll earn less in an office as she’ll start on the bottom rung of the ladder. They want and need her money.
But Belinda is desperate for more from life, and knows that she needs to give herself every opportunity that she can. As part of her studies, she’s given the chance to volunteer in a local book shop with Mr Tyrrell sorting out orders for him and typing up stock lists for him. She enjoys the work and when Mr Tyrrell dies suddenly she’s drawn to his nephew Richard Carson, who believes he is the heir to the estate.
Carson awakens feelings in Belinda that have been long buried and she wonders if perhaps she can find love again.
With plenty of twists and turns, and supporting characters, the story of The Surplus Girls builds and I was compelled to keep turning the pages to see what life had in store for Belinda, her family and the two old spinster sisters who run the secretarial school.
I shall certainly be looking out for the next book in the series when it’s published. I’ve included my Amazon Affiliate link below (I do earn from qualifying purchases) in case you’d like to read The Surplus Girls too.