#ShareAReviewDay with Judith Barrow – Series Review for Howarth Family Trilogy

Let’s welcome Judith Barrow next, with a review that encompasses her entire Howarth Family Trilogy, with prequel and anthology. I know you’ll enjoy this amazing set of reviews, and will want to click on the Continue Reading link to see what each book has to offer. And thank you all for sharing this one, too!

Review by Barb Taub

Mary is a nursing sister at Lancashire prison camp for the housing and treatment of German POWs. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling, life at home a constant round of arguments, until Frank Shuttleworth, a guard at the camp turns up. Frank is difficult to love but persistent and won’t leave until Mary agrees to walk out with him.

We’ve all read epic family sagas—sweeping multi-generational tales like The Thorn Birds, The Godfather, Roots, the Star Wars franchise, and anything remotely connected to the British Monarchy. So as I read Judith Barrow’s Howarth Family trilogy, I kept trying to slot them into those multigenerational tropes:

  • First generation, we were supposed to see the young protagonist starting a new life with a clean slate, perhaps in a new country.
  • The next generation(s) are all about owning their position, fully assimilated and at home in their world.
  • And the last generation is both rebel and synthesis, with more similarities to the first generation made possible by the confidence of belonging from the second one.

But the complex, three-dimensional miniatures I met in the first three books of the trilogy stubbornly refused to align with those tropes. First of all, there’s Mary Howarth—the child of parents born while Queen Victoria was still on the throne—who is poised between her parents’ Victorian constraints, adjustment to a world fighting a war, and their own human failures including abuse, alcoholism, and ignorance. When Pattern of Shadows begins in 1944, war-fueled anti-German sentiment is so strong, even the King has changed the British monarchy’s last name from Germanic Saxe-Coburg to Windsor. Mary’s beloved brother Tom is imprisoned because of his conscientious objector status, leaving their father to express his humiliation in physical and emotional abuse of his wife and daughters. Her brother Patrick rages at being forced to work in the mines instead of joining the army, while Mary herself works as a nurse treating German prisoners of war in an old mill now converted to a military prison hospital.

Mary’s family and friends are all struggling to survive the bombs, the deaths, the earthshaking changes to virtually every aspect of their world. We’ve all seen the stories about the war—plucky British going about their lives in cheerful defiance of the bombs, going to theaters, sipping tea perched on the wreckage, chins up and upper lips stiff in what Churchill called “their finest hour.” That wasn’t Mary’s war.

In May 1950, Britain is struggling with the hardships of rationing and the aftermath of the SecondWorldWar. Peter Schormann, a German ex-prisoner of war, has left his home country to be with Mary Howarth, matron of a small hospital in Wales. They intend to marry, but the memory of Frank Shuttleworth, an ex-boyfriend of Mary’s, continues to haunt them and there are many obstacles in the way of their happiness, not the least of which is Mary’s troubled family. When tragedy strikes, Mary hopes it will unite her siblings, but it is only when a child disappears that the whole family pulls together to save one of their own from a common enemy.

Her war is not a crucible but a magnifying glass, both enlarging and even inflaming each character’s flaws. Before the war, the Shuttleworth brothers might have smirked and swaggered, but they probably wouldn’t have considered assaulting, shooting, raping, or murdering their neighbors. Mary and her sister Ellen would have married local men and never had American or German lovers. Tom would have stayed in the closet, Mary’s father and his generation would have continued abusing their women behind their closed doors. And Mary wouldn’t have risked everything for the doomed love of Peter Schormann, an enemy doctor.

I was stunned by the level of historical research that went into every detail of these books. Windows aren’t just blacked out during the Blitz, for example. Instead, they are “criss crossed with sticky tape, giving the terraced houses a wounded appearance.” We’re given a detailed picture of a vanished world, where toilets are outside, houses are tiny, and privacy is a luxury.

The Granville Mill becomes a symbol of these dark changes. Once a cotton mill providing jobs and products, it’s now a prison camp that takes on a menacing identity of its own. Over the next two volumes of Howarth family’s story, it’s the mill that continues to represent the threats, hatred, and violence the war left behind.
To see the rest of the series review, please continue reading HERE

To Buy Pattern of Shadows go HERE
To Buy Changing Patterns go HERE


Author Judith Barrow

Although I was born and brought up in a small village on the edge of the Pennine moors in Yorkshire, for the last forty years I’ve lived with my husband and family near the coast in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK, a gloriously beautiful place.

I’ve written all my life and have had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles. But only started to seriously write novels after I’d had breast cancer twenty-two years ago.  Four novels safely stashed away, never to see the light of day again, I had the first of my trilogy, Pattern of Shadows, published in 2010, the sequel, Changing Patterns, in 2013 and the last, Living in the Shadows in 2015. The prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads was published in August 2017.  In 2017 I also completed an anthology of short stories of the minor characters in the trilogy. Hopefully now the family in this series will leave me alone to explore something else!

I have an MA in Creative Writing, B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing.  I am also a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council’s Lifelong Learning Programme and give talks and run workshops on all genres.

Along with friend and fellow author, Thorne Moore, I also organise a book fair in September. (this year onSaturday the 22nd) This year we’ve changed venues. Here’s the link that tells all!! http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk. When I’m not writing or teaching, I’m doing research for my writing, walking the Pembrokeshire coastline or reading and reviewing books for Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT, along with some other brilliant authors and bloggers.

#ExcerptWeek – Pattern of Shadows by Judith Barrow

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Chapter 27

August 1944

The wedding party piled off the bus, a rowdy giggling crowd, leaving it almost empty.

‘That bus driver had a shock seeing us lot,’ Patrick laughed.

‘The conductor sent his best wishes,’ Mrs Winterbottom said to Jean, peering from under the brim of her hat which had been knocked crooked in the crush. She straightened it and followed at a sedate pace as they crowded into The Crown. The groom’s father was already there. He sat in his usual place in the corner of the room by the large stone fireplace, pint pot in hand. There was no fire in the hearth; instead a large aspidistra filled the space, Betty Green’s contribution to the celebrations.

It was a gloriously sunny day. Some of the guests, mostly Patrick’s workmates and a few off duty nurses from the hospital, collected their drinks from the bar and made their way outside to sit on the benches. Except for Ellen the family stayed inside.

‘I don’t know why you couldn’t have come to the Registry Office,’ Winifred stood over her husband, brave enough to challenge him in a roomful of people.

He didn’t answer. Instead he raised his glass. ‘Cheers, you two,’ he shouted across the room, ‘mine’s a pint.’

Mrs Winterbottom, resplendent in her matching floral hat and dress, once the curtains in the back bedroom of her house, looked at him with distaste and turned her back.

 Mary watched Patrick carry the foamless beer over to her father. Wedding or no wedding Stan Green wasn’t going to let sentiment get in the way of business; if anything the ale looked more watered down than ever.

‘You’re feeling generous,’ she said to her brother as he passed her.

‘I told you, nowt’s going to spoil today. Master of my own house now, our kid.’ He winked at her. She supposed he was right, Jean’s home was his now, though it didn’t seem quite right. She hoped when her friend realised that it wasn’t too much of a shock

‘What’re you having Mam? Stout, sherry?’ Mary said, pulling out one of the chairs at her father’s table. ‘Sit down, it’ll be a crush once they bring the food out, so you’ll be better off over here.’ She put a hand on her father’s shoulder. ‘You’re ok with that aren’t you Dad?’ She made the warning clear. ‘You’ll make sure there’ll be nothing that spoils the day for Patrick and Jean, won’t you?’

He waved his hand, refusing to meet her eye. ‘Just keep the drinks coming,’ he said.

‘I wish out Tom could be here, Mary.’

‘And me, Mam.’

Bill glowered into his glass.

 At the bar Mary stood next to Jean and her new husband.

Although Jean was paler than usual the weight Mary’s friend had lost suited her and she looked lovely in the fitted powder blue silk and wool crepe mix two – piece that she’d bought from the Co-op for eleven coupons; six of which were Mary’s, her wedding gift. She still gripped the prayer book that she’d carried for the ceremony and every now and then touched the artificial spray of white carnations on her lapel. Her dark curls escaped from the short lace veil and the swathe of pale blue net across her forehead accentuated her eyes. Mary grinned, Mrs Winterbottom could certainly work wonders with curtains and Dolly Blue.

 She’d also made Mary and Ellen’s dresses.

*

‘Could have been a bit fancier,’ Ellen grumbled, the first time they tried them on, ‘she just doesn’t want us take any attention away from Jean.’

 The girls were both standing on kitchen chairs in the front room of Moss Terrace.

‘Sshhhh, stop whinging and stand still,’ Winifred hissed through a mouthful of pins. ‘I might not like the woman but she’s done you both proud. Now let me finish this hem or we’ll be here all day.’

Elsie Winterbottom came through from the kitchen holding a large tray with a pot of tea, a plate of biscuits and four china cups and saucers that Mary had never seen before.

‘Patrick,’ Ellen mouthed, pointing at the biscuits.

Mary shrugged and frowned.

 ‘Your Patrick got the parachute silk for us,’ Mrs Winterbottom said, ‘I cut it on the bias across the weave of the fabric so that it fits nicely’.

*

It did; it clung closely to their slender figures and now Mary pulled self – consciously at the waist, smoothing it down over her hips and watching Ellen blatantly playing to the admiring glances of Patrick’s friends.

‘Look at that lot gawking at her,’ Jean nudged Mary who turned her back to the group of men following her sister to the bar.

‘Silly devils! I hope the wedding photographs turn out ok,’ Mary said deliberately. It would be a good day to remember out of all the dark times they’d had.

‘I could have killed you lot for watching us through the window when we went into the studio for that photo.’

‘Well, you have to admit it was a scream,’ Mary grinned.

‘We were supposed to be driving away on our honeymoon,’ Jean said, ‘that’s why we had the country scene in the background.’

‘Sitting on two chairs behind a cardboard car?’

Jean giggled. ‘I’ll have you know that was a Lanchester Convertible.’

‘Best bit was when Patrick fell off his chair and knocked the whole thing over,’ Mary laughed.

‘Oi, watch it,’ Patrick punched her lightly on the arm. ‘It was a bloody silly idea anyway.’

 ‘He bent one of the headlamps, the photographer was furious.’ Jean joined in the laughter. ‘It was good of Tom to send money to Patrick to pay for the photographs out of his prison wages.’

A shadow crossed Mary’s face; whatever Patrick thought about him, she knew Tom loved his brother. It had probably taken months for him to save the six shillings they cost. She just hoped Patrick appreciated it.

‘Hope you remember to write and thank Tom, Patrick,’ Mary said.

The laughter faded. ‘I will,’ he said, ‘don’t worry, our Mary, I will.’

‘Grub’s up.’ Stan Green carried in long wooden tray filled with salad, potatoes and bread and put it on the line of tables covered with blue and white checked tablecloths, alongside the elaborate wedding cake.

‘Cake’s lovely,’ Winifred called to Mrs Winterbottom. Jean’s mother sniffed and pushed the cake to one side to make room for the plates of food Stan was unloading.

‘Hey up, you’ll have it over.’ Winifred shouted again, finishing her third sherry. The cake tilted to reveal a small sponge underneath.

‘I thought you’d splashed out,’ Mary whispered to Jean, who giggled and clutched hold of Patrick’s arm, pulling him closer to her.

 ‘It’s a model, isn’t it Patrick?’

‘No!’ Mary said in mocked surprise.

‘We hired it from Hirst’s bakery.’

Patrick waggled his eyebrows. ‘Only the best cardboard for us today.’

‘Ice cream for afters,’ Stan called.

‘You really pushed the boat out today for us, Mr Green,’ Mary said.

‘Got an allowance for extra food,’ he said. ‘You know, dried egg, margarine, cheese and a few other bits and bobs.’ He gathered up the long strand of greasy hair that had fallen over his ear and stroked it back across his head. ‘And your Patrick got us some stuff as well.’

Mary blocked her immediate response; if her brother couldn’t use his black market connections today when could he? Holding her plate aloft, she pushed her way through the groups of people, smiling and adding to the babble of conversations. ‘You had enough to eat, Mam.’

‘I have, love, I’ve had your dad’s as well; he didn’t want any,’ Winifred said. ‘It was a lovely spread.’ She smiled and patted her navy handbag that matched her dress. ‘I’ve put some by for tomorrow.’ Then she lifted her chin. ‘What’s Ellen doing?’

Mary looked over to where Ellen swayed around in front of Jean. ‘Show me your wedding ring then,’ her voice was shrill, ‘God, I bet that cost a fortune,’

Mary could tell she was being sarcastic; she hoped Jean couldn’t.

‘Twenty five shilling and ninepence from Wright’s in Bradlow,’ Jean twirled the ring round her finger with the pad of her thumb, ‘it’s a bit big at the moment but Patrick says when I get a bit of meat on my bones it’ll be just right.’

His smile softened the angular lines of his face.

‘Al says he’ll give me his grandmother’s wedding ring,’ Ellen boasted. ‘It’s twenty four carat. He inherited it.’ She smoothed her hands over her blonde hair that, like Mary’s, had been carefully rolled to frame her face. ‘He says when we get home to Philadelphia.’ She obviously liked the sound of that as she repeated it. ‘When we get home to Philadelphia, we’ll have the biggest, fanciest wedding, one that will beat any over here into a cocked hat. He says when he takes me to America we’ll have servants. He says all American wives have servants.’

He says a lot of things from the sound of it, Mary thought, edging past the scrum of people at the food table. Her sister was heading for a fall with that American, she was sure of it. She touched Ellen’s elbow. ‘Come and have something to eat.’

‘Not hungry. ‘Ellen was surly; she stood with one hand on her hip, head poked forward, ‘and I still don’t know why Al wasn’t allowed to come to the wedding; since we’re as good as engaged, he’s almost my fiancé.’

‘We don’t know him; none of us do. And how would you have explained him to Dad?’

‘Oh, bugger off, Mary.’

‘The ‘appy couple are leaving now,’ Stan Green bellowed. Everyone cheered and swarmed outside. The brightness of the sun caused the sky to shimmer, the tar between the cobbles glistened and heat radiated from the walls of the pub.

‘Couldn’t have been a lovelier day,’ Jean’s mother linked arms with Winifred who was fanning her face with the woman’s hat.

‘By it’s a warm one alright.’ Four sweet Sherries each and they were best friends, at least for the day, as Winifred confided to her eldest daughter later.

Jean clasped Mary to her. ‘Thanks for everything.’ Tears threatened to spill over.

‘You are very welcome … sister-in-law,’ Mary beamed. ‘And I’ll take your wedding presents back to our house and look after them until you can pick them up.’

They giggled; the couple had been given seven hand knitted tea cosies and two lots of egg cosies.

‘You guard them with your life,’ Jean warned. ‘I’m expecting them to last until our Silver Wedding Anniversary.’ She grabbed hold of her husband’s hand.

Some of the nurses had been collecting bits of paper from the office paper punch at the hospital for the last month and now they scattered them like confetti over Patrick and Jean as they ran up the street, Jean’s hand flat on top of her head to hold on her veil.

‘Don’t forget, I’ll be back from Aunty Florrie’s on Friday,’ Jean’s mother called.

‘Thanks for reminding us,’ Patrick shouted. ‘I’ll be sure to lock the door.

Even as Mary joined in the laughter a cold sadness filled her.

***

judith headshot
Judith Barrow

Although I was born and brought up in a small village on the edge of the Pennine moors in Yorkshire, for the last forty years, I’ve lived with my husband and family near the coast in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK, a gloriously beautiful place.
I’ve written all my life and have had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles. But only started to seriously write novels after I’d had breast cancer twenty years ago.  Four novels safely stashed away, never to see the light of day again, I had the first of my trilogy, Pattern of Shadows, published in 2010, the sequel, Changing Patterns, in 2013 and the last, Living in the Shadows in 2015. I’m now writing the prequel. Hopefully then the  family in this series will leave me alone to explore something else!
I have an MA in Creative Writing, B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing.  I am also a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council’s Lifelong Learning Programme and give talks and run workshops on all genres.
I also organise the Tenby Book Fair in September and, at the moment, am interviewing all the authors who will be appearing there on my website http://www.judithbarrow.co.uk.

When I’m not writing or teaching, I’m doing research for my writing, walking the Pembrokeshire countryside or reading and reviewing I review books for Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT, along with some other brilliant authors and bloggers.

Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com

Pattern of Shadows:
http://amzn.to/1onvi4R
http://amzn.to/1WBN3bP
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/pattern-of-shadows
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1Riznh1

 

Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com

Changing Patterns:
http://amzn.to/21rNd6u
http://amzn.to/1U1TRSd
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/changing-patterns
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1U1XmYD

Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com 

 Living in the Shadows:
http://amzn.to/1PWBLiV
http://amzn.to/22grYXn
Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/living-in-the-shadows-1
Barnes &Noble: http://bit.ly/1pHmeIh

 

#FabulousFridayGuestBlogger – Judith Barrow @barrow_judith

Today’s #FabulousFridayGuestBlogger, Judith Barrow, has written a lovely piece, chock full of memories and interesting settings. This is a fun way to lead up to Judith becoming an author. Thank you, Judith, for sharing this glimpse into your life. I hope everyone here will remember to share it on their various social media sites, as well.

~~~

judith headshot

Growing into my Writing Life

My first memory is of my climbing over a backyard gate and running home from a party where I’d been told I would have to ‘do a turn’: singing or dancing. If I’d been asked to make up a story I would have been there like a shot. But singing or dancing…?

We lived in a in a place called Saddleworth, surrounded by hills, fields and moorland. To me it was just a large playground and, from the age of six, I spent whole days exploring; walking with my dog to a place called Chew Valley (this was well before it was transformed into a reservoir, now called Dovestones), where I paddled and even swam in the deeper areas and picnicked with bottles of water and jam ‘butties’ and wrote poems and stories. No one ever asked me where I’d been or where I was going. I was free to roam. And write.

At home, Saturdays were washing and ironing days at our house; if it was fine the clothes would be strung on a line, held high by a ‘prop’, a wooden pole, across the garden. If it was raining they would be on a clothes maiden around the fire and the kitchen would be filled with steam. I hated that and, more often than not, hid away in my bedroom to write. To coax me back downstairs my mother would make potato cakes. These were made from a mixture of flour, margarine and mashed potatoes, rolled out, cut into squares and baked in the oven. Spread with lashings of butter they were delicious! 

My mother was a winder in both cotton and woollen mills. When I was very small I was in a nursery attached to the mill. Later, well before the days of Health and Safety I would go after school to wait for her to finish work. I’ve written many times about how I remember the muffled boom of noise as I walked across the yard and then the sudden clatter of so many different machines as I stepped through a small door cut into a great wooden door. I can hear now the women singing and shouting above the noise, whistling for more bobbins: the colours of the threads and cloth – so bright and intricate. But above all I can recall the smell: of oil, grease – and in the storage area – the lovely smell of the new material stored in bales and the feel of the cloth against my legs when I sat on them, reading or writing, until the siren hooted, announcing the end of the shift. Continue reading