Like other novels by Maureen Lee, the novel takes place in Bootle. These three women Queenie, Laura, and Vera live in Glover Street.
One of the things that is mentioned at the beginning of the book is that the families eat scouse. This is a dish that has been mentioned in the author’s other books, so I was curious to know what it is. Scouse is a type of lamb or beef stew. The word comes from lobscouse, a stew commonly eaten by sailors throughout Northern Europe, which became popular in seaports such as Liverpool.
The first of the book takes place in 1939 just before the war breaks out. We see the characters in the book preparing for the war that is to come. The women refer to the government leaflet about masking the windows. In July 1939 the British Government was preparing for war. War was not to come until September but the Lord Privy Seal’s Office distributed leaflets to the public under the banner of the Civil Defence. Public Information Leaflet no. 2 had two titles Your Gas Mask and how to use it and Masking your windows (better known as the ‘Blackout‘). The leaflet consisted of a single sheet of paper folded double, with a two-page spread of information on the inside continued on the back. It was clearly produced in haste as the distinction between headings and text emboldened for emphasis is not always clear.
Vera and Laura have their daughters and Queenie evacuated to Wales thanks to the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS). The WVS played a key part in the evacuation of civilians from urban areas. The WVS had been asked to pinpoint areas of safety and billeting for evacuated children. Moving children out of the cities proved reasonably easy. Getting them to a known area of safety proved a lot more difficult as trains did not always arrive at an expected destination or would turn up at a reception point unexpectedly. The WVS is credited with helping to move 1.5 million people (the majority were children) out of cities in the early days of September 1939.
Laura and Vera stay in Liverpool, and we see the many air raids ravaging the city. Liverpool was the most heavily bombed area of the country, outside London, due to the city having the largest port on the west coast and was of incalculable importance to the British war effort. Around 4,000 people were killed in the Merseyside area during the Blitz.
A hotel is mentioned several times in the book, the Adelphi. It is here where Queenie goes on her first shopping trip after Theo promotes her, and where she realises Theo must like her more than as an employee. And it is in front of the Adelphi where Roddy is waiting for her in the last chapter when Freddy’s burns out, and they get back together. The Britannia Adelphi Hotel is in Ranelagh Place, Liverpool city centre.