This is the sort of story where you dare to hope and dream all the way through. Full of charm and a Welsh backdrop, readers are transported back in time to the early 1920’s. World War I has ended but it can still be felt in those who returned.
Natty and her mum are forced to leave their town when they can no longer afford to live in the flat due to her mothers job loss; an outspoken woman who believes in the power of the people, especially women and children. She has overstepped with tyrant boss and is forced to leave.
Finding their way to a new town to live with cousins while they find their feet, Natty and Ffion must repair their own relationship and figure out how to start again.
Nerys and Huw are young cousins for Natty. Nerys, she finds annoying and loud, Huw she finds intriguing since learning he survived Passchendaele as an underage soldier. His losses are evident and he has clearly taken the war home with him.
Along her travels in the town, Natty meets Charles and Johnny, soldiers recuperating after the war. Johnny is especially kind to Natty and she learns of his amnesia and uncertainty over his past, present and future. She decides to help him to recover lost memories by playing games, chatting and singing childhood songs. Snippets of his past appear and he clings to them with hope of learning more.
Meanwhile Nerys, spurred on by Ffion, along with friend Owen are launching a strike at school after a horrid experience with the cane for Owen. Too poor to afford much food, he cannot concentrate when he is hungry. They are determined to win free school dinners to help the entire community.
These children are remarkably well written and I could feel their determination in their individual battles, whether as scars left from the war, the hunger rumbling in their bellies or just the knowledge they are trying to do the right thing.
I was hooked immediately and could not stop until I knew the ending! Now to go back with a Welsh pronunciation guide…although my Welsh friend has ensured I know the word cwtch and cawl. I can no longer cope without them!
A phenomenal story of love, hope and learning to understand what war did to the men who came home. Lesley Parr has ensured her place in the league of extraordinary historical writers with this one.