Friday 31 May 2019

Book Extract ~ The Wartime Midwives by Daisy Styles

Michael Joseph
16 May 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book and the chance to share this extract


Mary Vale, a grand and imposing Mother and Baby Home, sits on the remote Fylde coast in Lancashire. Its doors are open to unmarried women who come to hide their condition and find sanctuary.

Women from all walks of life pass through Mary Vale, from beautiful waitress Emily, whose boyfriend has vanished without trace, to young Isla, cast out by her wealthy family after her first year at university goes horribly wrong.

Awaiting them is Nurse Ada and Sister Anne who work tirelessly to aid the mothers and safely deliver the babies. But the unforgiving Matron and Head of Governors, Captain Percival, have other, more sinister, ideas.

As war looms the women at Mary Vale must pull together for the sake of themselves and their babies and Ada and Anne must help protect their patients, no matter what the cost.

✨ I'm delighted to be able to share this tantalising extract 
from The Wartime Midwives - the first book in a new heartwarming series by this popular author 

‘More! Please, Mummy, more!’ 

With her head on the same pillow as her son, Gloria stared into her five- y ear old’s sparkling g green eyes and sighed. With her long, raven- black hair fanned out around her slender shoulders, she had the same stunning Mediterranean colouring as her son, except that his hair was a mass of dark curls. Right now his cherubic little face was lit up with excitement, unlike his mother’s, which was drawn with fatigue. She had so much to do before Stan arrived home from work, but how could she resist Robin’s beseeching smile? 

‘Just one more chapter, then I have to go and cook Daddy’s supper,’ she said with an indulgent smile. 

Robin giggled happily and snuggled up closer to his mother. ‘What happens next in the Enchanted Wood?’ he whispered. 

Once again, Gloria opened Enid Blyton’s popular book and continued reading until Robin’s long, silky eyelashes drooped and he finally fell asleep. Laying the book on the bedside table, she stood up and tiptoed to the door, where she turned to smile adoringly at her darling boy. If she’d got her dates right, Robin might well have a little brother or sister to play with in the New Year. Heavens! How would she manage with two? Hurrying downstairs, she checked the meat pie that was baking in the oven in the back scullery, then set about peeling carrots and potatoes. 

Excited as she was about the possibility of a new arrival, she wondered how long she would be able to hold down her job teaching infant children at the local school in Battersea. There was no question that she loved her job, especially now that Robin had just started in the reception class right next door to her own classroom. But with a new baby in the house, surely she would have to give up work to take care of her growing family. Stan had advised her not to dwell too much on what she would or would not have to do. 

‘With war imminent there’ll soon be changes beyond our control,’ he said whenever Gloria started to worry about the future. 

Staring thoughtfully at the bubbles forming in the pan of water she’d put on to boil, Gloria wished that Stan wasn’t quite so insistent about war breaking out. Like most people, she wanted peace, after the horrors of the last war, in which so many millions of men were slain (including her own beloved father). Gloria approved of the prime minister’s appeasement tactics with Hitler, but recent aggression by the Nazis in Czechoslovakia had caused concern. It seemed increasingly obvious that duplicitous Hitler said one thing and then, as soon as Chamberlain’s back was turned, he did exactly the opposite. She knew for sure that her fiercely patriotic husband would be the first to sign up; she’d only to see his expression every time he read an article in the paper or heard a radio announcement about the latest atrocities to know how much he detested the man. 

‘That fella needs teaching a lesson,’ Stan would mutter darkly. ‘A short, sharp shock to put the cocky little upstart in his damned place.’ 

For all her attempts to turn the conversation away from ‘taking on the Hun’, Gloria found that Stan remained steadfastly determined that he would not abandon his country when the call came. The thought of her husband marching off to fight the enemy made Gloria almost sick with fear; all she wanted was to keep her happy little family safe and to bring her children up in a country that was at peace. When she heard the familiar sound of the key turning in the front door, her face lit up; quickly wiping her hands on her pinafore, she smiled at her tall, broad-shouldered husband framed in the kitchen door- way. Even now, after seven years of marriage, her heart still skipped a beat at the sight of his wide, generous smile and the mop of jet-black hair that fell carelessly across his dark blue eyes. 

‘Hello, sweetheart,’ he murmured, and stooped to kiss her full on the mouth. 

Gloria laid her head briefly against his strong chest, where the familiar smell of soap combined with engine oil assailed her senses. 

‘Good day?’ she asked. 

‘Long and hard – London’s getting too busy,’ he joked, as he hung up his coat and washed his hands under the scullery tap. ‘Mmm, supper smells good,’ he said appreciatively, as Gloria laid the hot meat pie on the table alongside a bowl of vegetables dotted with melting butter. ‘How lucky am I?’ he joked. ‘To have a beautiful, clever wife who can cook like an angel after a hard day teaching little ’uns reading, writing and arithmetic!’ 

Gloria smiled as she set down two glasses of cold water by their dinner plates; she knew how proud her husband was of her academic achievements. At the same age as Robin was now she and Stan had started school together; she’d always been the brightest student in the class, while he was just an average learner with an overriding interest in football and car engines. Their easy friendship had blossomed into love, and as teenagers they were inseparable. Stan had started working for London Transport as a bus driver as soon as he left secondary school at fourteen, while Gloria had remained on at school until she matriculated, after which she’d attended a nearby teacher-training college. 

Everybody had said when they got engaged that beautiful, clever Gloria could do better for herself than marry a bus driver, but Gloria had never strayed from her first and only love, even though other men had regularly tried to court her. And when she qualified as a primary-school teacher she married her childhood sweetheart in the church at the end of the street where she’d grown up. Two years later Robin had been born, but it had taken another five years to conceive again; she and Stan couldn’t have been happier or more excited. The only thing that marred Gloria’s joy was the constant, worrying talk of a blasted war! 

After supper they washed and dried the dishes in the back-scullery slop sink, then – as was their nightly habit – they settled down with a cup of tea in front of the coal fire to listen to the radio. Absorbed in following a complicated knitting pattern for a baby’s layette in a neutral cream colour, Gloria wondered dreamily whether the baby she was carrying would be a boy or a girl. 

Daisy Styles grew up in Lancashire surrounded by a family and community of strong women whose tales she loved to listen to. It was from these women, particularly her vibrant mother and Irish grandmother, that Daisy learned the art of storytelling. There was also the landscape of her childhood – wide, sweeping, empty moors and hills that ran as far as the eye could see – which was a perfect backdrop for a saga, a space big enough and wild enough to stage a drama, one about women’s lives during the Second World War.

Twitter #TheWartimeMidwives #DaisyStyles



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