Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Poppy Factory - Liz Trenow

About the book...
Inspired by the upcoming anniversary of the First World War, historical fiction author Liz Trenow has penned a captivating story of two young women, bound together by the tragedy of two very different wars.

Interviews with soldiers who have recently served in Afghanistan, along with an NHS paramedic and extensive research into the origins of the incredibly inspirational Poppy Factory which to this day helps returning soldiers to find work helped Liz to create remarkable characters inspired by real events.

With the end of the First World War, Rose is looking forward to welcoming home her beloved husband Alfie from the battlefields. But his return is not what Rose had expected. Traumatised by what he has seen, the Alfie who comes home is a different man to the one Rose married. As he struggles to cope with life in peace time, Rose wrestles with temptation as the man she fell in love with seems lost forever.

Many years later, Jess returns from her final tour of Afghanistan. Haunted by nightmares from her time at the front, her longed-for homecoming is a disaster and she wonders if her life will ever be the same again. Can comfort come through her great-grandmother Rose’s diaries?

For Jess and Rose, the realities of war have terrible consequences. Can the Poppy Factory, set up to help injured soldiers, rescue them both from the heartache of war?

About the author...
Liz Trenow is a former journalist who spent fifteen years on regional and national newspapers, and on BBC radio and television news, before turning her hand to fiction. The Forgotten Seamstress is her second novel. She lives in East Anglia with her artist husband, and they have two grown up daughters.  Find out more at www.liztrenow.com.

My thoughts...
I was offered an ecopy of this book by Olivia Wilson at  Lightbrigade www.lightbrigadePR.co.uk in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.  The timing for reading this novel was perfect.  I've just produced Oh What a Lovely War for our local am-dram group, was gifted a #towerpoppy and went to see the installation at the Tower of London - all to commemorate the centenary of WW1.

Where to begin?  Liz has clearly done her research well. The Poppy Factory was an all consuming read for me, it felt more like I was reading about real people than fictional characters the characters and story were so life like. The story centres around two very different women, one whose husband served in WW1 and one who served in Afghanistan herself.  Both affected by the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It's all too easy to focus on the person who was in the frontline but in actual fact those family members left at home to worry and fret, then pick up the pieces when the soldiers return, suffer equal yet different way.

I loved the way Liz wove the two stories together, from the past and the present connecting the characters and their stories.  I particularly loved Rose's story told in diary form - this added to the realism for me and the fact that it was Jess reading Rose her great grandmothers diaries gave the novel an added edge for me.  The diaries showing Jess the other side of the coin, allowing an insight into what it is like for families, coping with the traumas their loved ones who've served in 'wars' have suffered.  I could very well have been reading real diary entries.   It is hard though, to belief that 100 years on we have different wars, yet the problems and suffering are really no different.  Wives, mothers and families disconnected for so long - not really having a true understanding of the trauma's and issues their loved ones have faced, yet still expected to pick up the pieces when they come home with understanding and compassion. 

The Poppy Factory was an emotional read and seemed very realistic, not over-glamourised in any way and very sensitively written.  At the end of the day war is war, time has only altered the level of communication, media and knowledge we all have and Liz has tackled an illness that is more readily accepted now than it was 100 years ago.  In this centenary year I feel through reading and media such as Liz's book I personally have learnt things about 'War' that I didn't know before and feel humbled when I think about the suffering our soldiers have gone and do go through for each and every one of us.

I highly recommend this book to everyone, you like me may well shed a tear but will turn the final page with a greater understanding of the significance of 'the Poppy'.  I always buy and wear a poppy but this year it will be with a greater understanding and empathy for those that have served us.

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