Despite the bluebell wood (painted by the author-artist Kit Domino) on the cover of Every Step of the Way, this is no walk in the park. We are in the early 50s, a time of austerity for all families including Beth Brixham’s. Her mother takes in washing to make ends meet, a brother is on National Service and her Dad Alfie is plagued by a war-wound that’s more than skin deep. In the great London smog, Beth misses a job interview and instead ends up meeting and going out with good-looking Terry Gibbs. But her good fortune doesn’t last. After a series of disasters, the Brixhams move to the country. When Beth eventually moves back toLondon, Terry has disappeared and she carries with her new responsibilities: it looks unlikely that they’ll ever get back together.
There are two really striking things abut this book. One is the brilliant depiction of early 50s culture, complete with quiffs, drainpipes and juke-boxes, set against the moral as well as economic austerity of the post-war years. The other is the spirited and engaging heroine who for much of the book is ‘alone against the world’. I admit one or two things about the plot didn’t quite ring true to me, but I was rooting for Beth from page 1 and could not have left without knowing the outcome of her dramatic story. It’s no surprise that this book just missed the Harry Bowling Prize for a novel set in London and if you fancy a a warm-hearted read and a touch of nostalgia (think Call the Mid-wife without that unfortunate childbirth stuff!) this is for you.
Which brings me to the fact that from next month I’m going to be reviewing indie publishing for What the Dickens. If you haven’t seen this rather tasty online mag (allied to the tempting Writers’ Gifts website) take a look. It’s one of those where you flick through a (beautifully designed) virtual magazine, which in this case has poetry, stories and art-work as well as reviews. WTD is free, but I’ve noticed that for 0.99 you can download a Kindle copy.
Since I find reading for pleasure (as opposed to information) from a PC screen is just impossible, I think I’ll give that a go and report back on the experience.