Today’s review of The Girl from the Workhouse will, I hope, appeal to anyone who loves historical fiction novels or family sagas. I personally signed up to today’s blog tour for the historical fiction element, but I loved the book for many more reasons besides this!
Thank you to the author Lynn Johnson and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour. I am very grateful to have received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!
The Girl from the Workhouse – Lynn Johnson
Even in the darkest of times, she never gave up hope
Staffordshire, 1911. Ginnie Jones’s childhood is spent in the shadow of the famous Potteries, living with her mother, father and older sister Mabel. But with Father’s eyesight failing, money is in short supply, and too often the family find their bellies aching with hunger. With no hope in sight, Ginnie is sent to Haddon Workhouse.
Separated from everything she has known, Ginnie has to grow up fast, earning her keep by looking after the other children with no families of their own. When she meets Clara and Sam, she hopes that she has made friends for life… until tragedy strikes, snatching away her newfound happiness.
Leaving Haddon three years later, Ginnie finds work as a mouldrunner at the Potteries, but never stops thinking about her friends in the workhouse – especially Sam, now a caring, handsome young man. When Sam and Ginnie are reunited, their bond is as strong as ever – until Sam is sent to fight in WW1. Faced with uncertainty, can Ginnie find the joy that she’s never had? Or will her heart be broken once again?
An emotional, uplifting and nostalgic family saga that will make you smile, while tugging on your heart-strings. Fans of Sheila Newbury, Kitty Neale and Sheila Riley will love this beautiful read.
WW1 is the historical setting of this fictional saga. I love reading historical fiction novels in this time period. The main character Ginnie is from a poor family. When they cannot make ends meet, she is sent with her parents to a workhouse and in the care of the state. Separated from her parents and her sister, Ginnie is thrown into a whole new world of work, new friendships and tragic loss.
The ‘make-do-and-mend’ attitude of the characters is really appropriate for the time and background of their story. Not only that though, it reminds me of another historical fiction novel set in northern EngIand really enjoyed. The time setting is different but the characters and sentiment are the same: tough it out and make the best of what you’ve got.
A number of characters are given the chance to shine throughout this novel. Ginnie is thick-skinned and robust at adjusting to workhouse life and even becomes a pillar for others to lean on in hard times. Her friend Constance is a suffragette and plays no small part in the movement that gains some women the right to vote. When the war does break out and men are called up into service, some men are ecstatic to serve their country. More so, however, there is a vibe of palpable fear in many that they won’t come back to their families. It’s heartbreaking but I’m glad that this is portrayed. It’s a very raw and honest emotion that men aren’t expected or encouraged by society to show.
I didn’t think I’d say it, but my favourite part of the novel is the relationship between Ginnie and Sam. Each has known their own share of hardship even before they come to know each other all that well. Their companionship grew on me the more I read and their interactions with each other aren’t dominated by physical need or pining over each other. It’s a relationship built on an emotional bond. Both have grown-up in the workhouse at the rear end of society (to put it politely), and have been there for each other when they needed it. Theirs is a childhood friendship that blooms into something more and I really found myself rooting for the pair. I’m not a romance reader, but they managed to thaw my frosty heart.
The Girl from the Workhouse is a little different from my typical reading habits, but I’m glad I put myself forward to take part in the tour. I really enjoyed reading the book and the added bonus of perspective gained on life in Britain during the war.
Lynn Johnson was born in the Staffordshire Potteries and went to school in Burslem, where the novel is set. She left school with no qualifications and got a job as a dental nurse (and lasted a day), a nursery assistant, and a library assistant before her ambition grew and she enrolled at the Elms Technical College, Stoke-on-Trent and obtained six O’levels. She obtained a Diploma in Management Studies and a BA Hons in Humanities with Literature from the Open University while working full-time.
Most of her working life was spent in Local Government in England and Scotland, and ultimately became a Human Resources Manager with a large county council.
She started to write after taking early retirement and moving to the north of Scotland with her husband where she did relief work in the famous Orkney Library and Archives, and voluntary work with Orkney’s Learning Link. Voluntary work with Cats Protection resulted in them sharing their home with six cats.
She joined Stromness Writing Group and, three months after moving to Orkney, wrote a short story which would become the Prologue to The Girl From the Workhouse.
Social Media Links – https://twitter.com/lynnjohnsonjots