The Girl From the Corner Shop, by Alrene Hughes
About The Book
WW2 Manchester: Newlyweds Helen and Jim Harrison have big plans – to leave the family shop where Helen works and set up home together. But when Jim is tragically killed in an air raid, Helen is heartbroken, her life in ruins.
Battling grief and despair, Helen resolves to escape her domineering mother and rebuild her shattered world. Wartime Manchester is a dangerous place, besieged by crime and poverty. So when Helen joins the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps, working with evacuees, the destitute and the vulnerable, she finds a renewed sense of purpose. She’s come a long way from her place behind the counter in the corner shop.
But there’s still something missing in her heart. Is Helen able to accept love and happiness and find the courage to change her life?
I am so happy, pleased, honored, etc. to bring you my review of Alrene Hughes’ The Girl From the Corner Shop! After falling in love with The Girl in the Pink Raincoat I was so incredibly excited to get my hands on this one. Like her previous novel, The Girl From the Corner Shop is set in wartime Manchester and also has another stunning cover. I mean really, who does Alrene Hughes covers? They should win awards. Anyway, Helen is a young newlywed living with her mother and working in her mother’s shop. Although Helen hates working in her mother’s shop, she’s hopeful of better things because she and her husband Jim have secured an apartment and are getting ready to finally move out on their own. But then there is a horrible tragedy leaving Helen a young widow and no idea what she wants next in her life, other than getting away from her overbearing and controlling mother. Thus begins a whirlwind of a story as Helen finds her place in the world and finds happiness again.
Once again, Alrene Hughes has completely blown me away. Helen Harrison is my new book hero and there truly are not enough words to describe how much I love this character! From her wretched mother, losing her husband, trying to find work, trying to keep a roof over her head, nosy neighbor, creepy bosses, and so on – this girl goes through it. However, despite everything that is thrown at her, this young woman kept going and just kept making a better life for herself. After being miserable working in her mother’s shop for next to nothing, she does modeling, waitressing, office work, and eventually becomes a part of the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps (WAPC), which I had never heard of until reading this novel. Founded in 1939, this allowed women that were between 18-55 to be a part of the police force in a variety of roles ranging from telephone operator to walking a beat. In this story, Helen becomes fascinated with the prospect of being a part of the WAPC after working with the police on a robbery and meeting a female police officer, eventually becoming a part of the WAPC herself.
Of course, there are several wonderful characters intermixing with Helen’s life and experiences. There’s Sgt Duffy with the police department, DC Kershaw that tells Helen about the WAPC, Helen’s godmother Pearl, Ana that Helen modeled with, the hot doctor Laurence, Jim’s best friend Frank, and so on. There are also several creepy, slimy characters, but I don’t want to really discuss them for fear of spoiling any of the plot!
Speaking of plot, just as with The Girl in the Pink Raincoat, this is one that I can’t really go into the happenings of the story because I don’t want to ruin anything. Helen loses her husband, decides not to put up with her mother another minute, and takes off on her own. Throughout the book there are so many twists and turns in Helen’s life with people coming and going, relationships changing, relationships ending, and so on. She has so many incredible experiences – some good, some bad – but nevertheless, she truly lives her life and takes life on head first.
The only thing in this novel that I did not like, was that it ended. I could have happily continued reading about Helen’s life and not thought a thing about it! I cannot say enough about Alrene Hughes and her mesmerizing storytelling. She brings her characters to life in such unique ways and her plot development will have you completely hooked after the first page.
The Girl From the Corner Shop is a perfect example of what historical fiction should be. This is an outstanding and engaging read that I highly, highly recommend and continue to be impressed but this talented author.
*Special thanks to the author and Head of Zeus and NetGalley for providing an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review!
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About The Author
Alrene Hughes grew up in Belfast and has lived in Manchester for most of her adult life. She worked for British Telecom and the BBC before training as an English teacher. After teaching for twenty years, she retired and now writes full-time.