- Family Saga
| Synopsis |
London, 1914: one ordinary day, three girls arrive for work at London’s renowned Foyles bookshop. But when war with Germany is declared their lives will never be the same again…
Alice has always been the ‘sensible’ one in her family – especially in comparison with her suffrage-supporting sister! But decidedly against her father’s wishes, she accepts a job at Foyles Bookshop;and for bookworm Alice it’s a dream come true.
But with the country at war, Alice’s happy world is shattered in an instant. Determined to do what she can, Alice works in the bookshop by day, and risks her own life driving an ambulance around bomb-ravaged London by night. But however busy she keeps herself, she can’t help but think of the constant danger those she loves are facing on the frontline…
Alice, Victoria and Molly couldn’t be more different and yet they share a friendship that stems back to their childhood – a friendship that provides everyday solace from the tribulations and heartbreak of war. Perfect for fans of Elaine Everest, Daisy Styles and Rosie Hendry.
Look out for the next book in the series, The Foyles Bookshop Girls at War.
| Author |
Elaine Roberts had a dream to write for a living. She completed her first novel in her twenties and received her first very nice rejection. Life then got in the way until she picked up her dream again in 2010. She joined a creative writing class, The Write Place, in 2012 and shortly afterwards had her first short story published. Elaine and her patient husband, Dave, have five children who have flown the nest. Home is in Dartford, Kent and is always busy with their children, grandchildren, grand dogs and cats visiting.
| Excerpt |
Alice Taylor was a little breathless. A small bead of perspiration had formed on her forehead. She lifted her head slightly to enjoy the breeze that rippled along the river, breaking up the heat of the early morning June sunshine. Alice sighed. The summer of 1914 was going to be a hot one. The small heels on her ankle boots clipped the pavement purposefully as she hurried across Westminster Bridge towards Big Ben, leaving her visit to St Thomas’ Hospital behind her.
The tall black ornate ironwork of the streetlights lined the bridge, high above the people walking along, each rushing to their destination. Horses pulled their carts, leaving piles of dung in their wake. The everyday pungent stench went unnoticed by everyone. Children leant against the sides of the bridge to enjoy the boats chugging along the river. Their arms were outstretched, waving, as they got nearer. Some mothers stopped to enjoy the scene, while others shouted to hurry their children along.
‘Come on, we’ll be late, you can watch them another time.’
‘Don’t let me have to tell you again.’ A woman snatched her child away from the side of the bridge and dragged him along the road, scuffing his worn shoes as he went.
On another day, she would have stopped to admire the boats and the sun glinting off the River Thames, but not today. If she didn’t get a move on, she’d be late. An army of people had gathered outside the Houses of Parliament and Alice glanced over, intrigued by what they were all looking at. Shrill voices chanting ‘votes for women’ carried through the air. She took a step towards the crowd that was growing in size.
‘Votes for women.’ A single voice rang out.
Alice came to an abrupt standstill. That was Lily’s voice, wasn’t it? She stood on tiptoes, stretching her neck to see above everyone, but all she could see were the placards held high. She wrinkled her nose as the strong smell of coffee wafted around her. Crowds were building, spilling onto the pavement.
Men frowned and shook their heads as they were made to step into the road.
A deep voice shouted out, causing the spectators to look around. ‘Get back to your kitchens.’
‘It shouldn’t be allowed. God help us all if women get the vote,’ another yelled as he walked by.
Some women jeered in response, while others mumbled to each other. People stopped and stared. They all wanted to see what the commotion was about, but not wanting to get involved, they moved on quickly.
Alice wanted to push through the crowd to see if it was her sister’s voice she’d heard. If so, she’d try to pull her away, but Lily’s fiery nature would mean a commotion, drawing unwanted attention to them. Their father would be furious if Lily was involved in what he called ‘that nonsense’. A stout, grey-haired woman walked through the crowd, wearing a tall, black, wide-brimmed hat. She was carrying a long white cotton bag with ‘Votes For Women’ emblazoned on the front of it. The bag rested against her long black skirt, while her white blouse rippled underneath the strap. She stood in front of Alice, thrusting a handful of leaflets at her. ‘Take one, miss, this is all about you and your future, and your daughter’s.’
Alice looked down at the white paper with ‘Votes for Women’ printed across the top in large, thick black letters.
The old lady moved her white-gloved hand nearer. ‘Go on, you know it’s important we all stand together.’
Alice reached out and did as she was bid. The woman smiled and moved on into the crowd. The loud musical chimes of Big Ben made her jump; she automatically glanced down at her wristwatch as they continued. Thank goodness they’d alerted her to how late she was going to be if she didn’t hurry. Deciding against worrying about Lily’s folly, Alice thrust the leaflet into her skirt pocket and turned right onto Whitehall. The tall buildings, with what her father liked to call ‘architectural details’ of pillars and scrolls, were invisible to her as she focussed on reaching W & G Foyles Bookstore, on Charing Cross Road, where she worked as a shop assistant. Alice’s stomach churned and she felt nauseous thinking about the confrontation between Lily and their father, but she told herself she could say, hand on heart, and on a stack of bibles if her father insisted, that she hadn’t seen Lily at the demonstration.
Two men in dark suits walked in front of her and lit cigarettes. She wrinkled her nose when the slight breeze caught the smoke and it wafted in her face. Their black trousers held sharp creases, which had been ironed in, front and back, matching their long sack coats. Bowler hats were perched precariously on their heads.
‘What do you think then, about the Austrian being shot?’ the smaller man asked his companion, tucking a newspaper under his arm.
‘I can’t see why the shooting in Sarajevo should affect this country.’
The man lifted his arm slightly, to adjust the position of his daily paper. ‘No, let’s hope not; we have enough problems…’ he responded, pausing to listen to the women’s voices as they carried through the air. ‘Those women are causing havoc.’
The taller man laughed. ‘I’m more concerned about the unions and the talk of a general strike.’
‘Yes, the thought of strikes is worrying.’ The other man sighed. ‘The unions are getting stronger and if the miners, transport workers and dockers all stop work, it will bring the country to a standstill. The threat of it alone is already putting up prices. Mark my words, it won’t be long before it affects my grocery business and I’ll be the bad person when the prices go up.’
‘We’ve noticed it at the factory too; it could be a rough ride ahead. My wife is already complaining she can’t get what she needs from the milliners.’
Alice sighed. Anxiety threatened to engulf her. Having no desire to overhear their conversation, —the same one she had heard a hundred times over between her older brother, Robert, and her father— she stepped out into the wide road to pass the two men. All this talk of strikes, and now Lily getting involved in politics; at twenty years old, her younger sister wanted to take on the establishment. Alice shook her head. Talking to her feisty sibling, before she got arrested, was paramount. Their Grandpa Gettin was always saying Lily was like their mother, Sarah, when she was her age and she in turn reminded him of her mother, Alexandra, when she was alive.
Alice quickened her step. Her grip tightened on her empty shopping bag as it swung by her side, brushing against her black tulip-shaped, ankle length skirt. A red tram approached, she was convinced they were travelling faster than they used to. She stepped onto the pavement as it trundled past; the breeze blew a strand of her long brown hair across her face. Her slender fingers pulled it away and pushed it behind her ear, under her narrow-brimmed hat, before checking the small pearl earrings nestling on her earlobes.
The men’s voices faded into the morning air as each step took her further away.
‘Read all about it,’ a newspaper boy yelled, pulling at his flat cap to keep the sun off his face. His brown jacket looked worn and threadbare. His black trousers sat an inch above his scuffed shoes. ‘The heir to the Austrian throne and his wife shot dead in Sarajevo.’ Men in suits swarmed towards the boy from all directions, frantically searching in their trouser pockets for the halfpenny needed to buy the newspapers that were under the lad’s arm. ‘Your change, sir.’
‘Keep it.’ The man stepped away, staring at the front page.
‘Come on, lad, I’m going to be late for work.’
‘Hold on, mate.’ The boy handed over the paper and quickly pocketed the money.
Alice crossed Trafalgar Square, where the tall column was sited, with the famous admiral looking down on Londoners going about their business. The National Gallery stood tall and vast on her left as she made her way along Charing Cross Road. Drivers of the horse-drawn carriages were careful to avoid the motorcars as they drove past. The dull thud of the hooves clip-clopping on the tarmac provided the usual melodic background for the engines coughing and spluttering above them. Horse dung lay in a line along the road, the earthy smell mingling with the overpowering fumes from the cars. Shopkeepers said good morning to everyone they saw as they pulled down awnings to protect their produce from the early morning sunshine. As she walked by, Alice watched their practiced hands wipe down the windows with rags, reminding her of her father’s wrath when he had caught her throwing away some worn bed linen. He’d lectured her about not wasting his hard-earned money, insisting the sheets were cut up, hemmed and used as rags, just like his mother used to do. Her mother hadn’t said a word against him. She stored them away in a cupboard and his instructions were still waiting to be carried out. Alice had never met her father’s family and neither had her mother. As a child, she had built fantasy pictures in her mind about them, and as an adult she had thought about visiting them in Norfolk, but she didn’t want her father’s anger to come down on her. He kept in touch by visiting them once a year, but he always went alone.
The chimes of Big Ben told her it was now quarter to nine. Alice shook her head, annoyed with herself for having gone to St Thomas’ Hospital before work, instead of afterwards.
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