20/03/2008

Sing as we go (by Margaret Dickinson)

As far as I know, I haven't read anything by Margaret Dickinson before now, although she's apparently quite a prolific writer.

'Sing as we go' is a fast-paced and well-written novel set in the early 1940s. The heroine, Kathy, is strong-willed and determined. Her father is unloving and sometimes violent, and her mother loving but not very strong. Kathy manages to leave - with her mother's blessing - and stays with her best friend's aunt in the city. She finds a job, makes new friends, and falls in love with the handsome Tony, who has reputedly broken several hearts already.

Of course, life is never straightforward. Kathy's boss is one of Tony's ex-girlfriends, and Tony's mother is a selfish and manipulative woman who doesn't want him to love anyone but herself. There's also the rather large matter of World War II looming, with all it involves.

I sometimes find novels set in the war years to be rather dry, heavily weighted in favour of factual accounts of the war, with the characters secondary. That isn't the case with 'Sing as we go'. I thought the balance was good - there's plenty of fictional plot, revolving around Kathy and her friends, and the war is only really mentioned when it impinges on them.

It's ideal if you want to pick up a bit of social history while reading a good story. Kathy sings with a group touring around the country giving concerts to servicemen, a subject I knew very little about. The scenes felt realistic rather than researched, and I found myself appreciating the value of those who gave their time and talents to the entertainment industry during the war.

It's a story of hope, of determination, and of picking up the pieces after making mistakes. Kathy is a likeable girl and I found myself turning the pages of this book at night, long after I really should have been asleep.

My main problem with the book is that some of the minor characters seem unrealistic, and rather inconsistent. Others just seem weak and faceless. But it wasn't a huge problem, since I found I could relate to Kathy fairly well - and most of the story is seen through her eyes.

All in all, enjoyable light historical fiction with a realistic background of the war years.

('Sing as we go' was sent to me by The Bookbag, and I initially reviewed it for their site)

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