Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.
This week I’m revisiting the first in a fabulous historical fiction trilogy by Judith Barrow, although there have been two more books published to compliment the series. Pattern of Shadows is set during WWII and was published in 2010.
Pattern of Shadows revolves around the working class Howarth family, particularly Mary who is a nurse at a prisoner of war camp hospital in Lancashire. She is dedicated to, and loves, her job. Home life is another matter entirely. Her father is angry and bitter after his experiences in the First World War, embarrassed and furious at Mary’s brothers. Tom is imprisoned in Wormwood Scrubs for being a conscientious objector and Patrick, a Bevin Boy, forced to work in the mines instead of fighting on the front line and threatening to strike. Ellen, Mary’s sister, is only concerned with her own life and having a good time. And in the middle of all this is Winifred, Mary’s mother, who bears the brunt of her husband’s aggressiveness and violent temper.
Mary waited, studying her mother’s stooping figure. It was almost as though she hadn’t really seen her for a long time. The woman who had always been so strong, standing before her family, protecting them from her father’s rages had now shrunk, become fragile.
When Mary meets Frank Shuttleworth, a friend of Patrick’s and a guard at the camp, she wonders if her life is about to change for the better. But Mary soon realises Frank is not all he seems, although she doesn’t completely realise the danger he poses. Mary’s life becomes even more complicated when Dr Peter Schormann arrives at the hospital to help with the patients and a risky attachment begins to grow between them.
The stark and grim reality of wartime in a Northern town is portrayed very realistically and with a tangible sense of place and atmosphere. The rows of terraced houses with outhouses in the yards, the lack of privacy and people just managing to get by with very limited resources create an evocative scenario. Well drawn and completely believable characters, clearly showing the constraints forced upon women in those not so distant times, the reality of such restrictions contrasting sharply with the much more open and broad-minded attitudes today. Prejudices, sexism and racism are rife.
It’s very refreshing to read about a different aspect of the war years. Life is unmistakably tough and I felt for Mary. Although her situation as the cornerstone of the family is difficult, she has the support of her brother, Tom, and best friend, Jean. Mary shows compassion and great strength of character despite the hardships. The storyline and the historical facts are woven together extremely well, demonstrating extensive research. Judith Barrow’s writing is articulate and expressive. A very satisfactory ending with enough left open for the second of the trilogy, which I’m looking forward to.
Mary is a nurse at a Lancashire POW camp. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling. Soon, she meets Frank, a guard who has been watching her for weeks. But Frank is difficult to love and it’s not long before Mary decides to break it off. Matters come to a head when Frank puts two and two together and realises that Mary is about to embark on an affair with one of the camp’s German doctors. Frank is not the kind of man who will take no for an answer and pretty soon, Mary’s secret threatens to destroy not just her happiness, but her life itself.