London, 2004. Frankie didn’t always have it easy. Growing up motherless, she was raised by her grandmother, who loved her – and betrayed her. For years, the rift between them seemed irreparable. But when their paths suddenly cross again, Frankie is shocked to realise that her grandmother is slowly losing control of her memory. There is a darkness in her past that won’t stay buried – secrets going back to wartime that may have a devastating effect on Frankie’s own life.
Somerset, 1940. When seventeen-year-old Violet’s life is ripped apart by the London Blitz, she runs away to join the Women’s Land Army, wanting nothing more than to leave her grief behind. But as well as the terror of enemy air raids, the land girls at Winterbourne Orchards face a powerful enemy closer to home. One terrible night, their courage will be put to the test – and the truth of what happened must be kept hidden, forever . . .
I received a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. As part of this publication day push, I am sharing my review from an earlier post.
The Orchard Girls crept up on me. I started reading without knowing what to expect, and before long I was completely hooked. The story is told from two timelines, Somerset in 1940 and London in 2004. 1940 sees socialite Violet, rebel against the constraints of her lifestyle after a quick decision has devastating repercussions for her. Running away from home, she joins the Women’s Land Army under a pseudonym. She happily accepts the discomfort of the role, until she sees the bigger picture and how her fellow women are suffering.
Fast forward to 2004 and we meet Frankie, Violet’s granddaughter who has been transferred to work as a journalist for a large circulation newspaper. Frankie has been estranged from Violet for over 10 years, and their relationship is strained when they are thrown back together. Despite their damaged relationship, Frankie soon realises that Violet is having memory issues and needs help.
I found this to be a difficult read at times, I’d be surprised if there are many people who haven’t been affected by dementia and memory related frailties. I found myself completely absorbed by this story and particularly enjoyed the slow release of the dark secret that Violet and her friends had guarded for over 60 years. The descriptions of life in the Land Army were gritty and I found myself hoping that this was not the case for all women, seeking out a way to contribute to the war effort.
In 2005, I stopped reading newspapers and glossy magazines, the modern-day story line confirmed that I had made the right decision. The push to get a story at the expense of Violet’s privacy was distasteful and exactly what I loathe about the mainstream media. Scandal sells!
Following both timelines, I found a rich cast of characters, each adding real depth to the story. Personally, I found Jools to be the stand-out character, her joie de vivre mixed with a burning desire for equality, made her quite special. I could happily go on and on about this book, but I avoid spoilers so will draw a line here. I must add that this is a gem of a book. It expertly handles difficult subjects and never feels mired by the darker elements.
Nikola Scott started out in book publishing and worked as a crime fiction editor in America and England for many years. Turning her back on blood-spattered paperback covers and dead bodies found in woods, she sat down at her kitchen table one day to start her first novel — and hasn’t stopped writing since. Obsessed with history and family stories (‘How exactly did you feel when your parents gave the house to your brother?’) she is well-known – and feared – for digging up dark secrets at dinner parties and turning them into novels.
Her first two books, My Mother’s Shadow and Summer of Secrets, have both been international bestsellers and were translated widely around the world. Nikola lives in Frankfurt with her husband and two boys (and a kitchen table).
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For more info on Nikola, visit her website at www.nikolascott.com
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Receiving a digital ARC does not influence my opinion of a book. Please note, this review contains affiliate links.