My first review is for Every Step of the Way by Kit Domino which was shortlisted for the Harry Bowling Prize in 2004 and is published by Thornberry Publishing
Beth Brixham is a 16-year-old London girl. It's 1952 and the city is beginning to recover from the War. Beth is desperately looking for an office job, something that will please her parents and allow her a little more freedom and independence, away from her bullish, somewhat overbearing Father and her overworked and tired Mother. Beth is making her way to an interview when she becomes lost in a terrible 'pea-souper' of a fog, a fog like nothing ever seen before in London which becomes known as the 'Great Smog'. Beth takes refuge in a cafe, and gets talking to the staff and owner who offers her a job there and then. Working in a cafe is not what Beth had hoped for, but once there, she soon starts to enjoy her days.
Eventually, after four days the smog cleared and the aftermath for the city is huge. Thousands of people have died and lives have been changed forever. The aftermath for Beth is that instead of getting an office job, she is now a waitress - but has met the handsome and charming Terry who has quickly stolen her heart.
Life deals Beth and her family a really hard hand. As she encounters tragedy and disappointment her character's strength shines through. Kit Domino paints a wonderfully evocative picture of life in the 1950s, of the newly emerging coffee shop culture, the music and the fashion. Throughout the story, as Beth deals with the pain and grief around her, she never weakens. Sometimes she may make the wrong decisions in life, but always for the right reasons. Beth is loyal and devoted to her family, despite her Father's treatment of her and her siblings, and indeed, his own wife. She is also determined to fight for her rights as a woman, often going against the wishes of others, to make sure that she as a woman can have the same opportunities as the men.
The story moves to rural Gloucestershire for a while and again Kit Domino is able to paint a wonderfully realistic picture of life on a farm in the 50s.
I was very impressed by the quality of the writing, the descriptions of murky London transport the reader back into the midst of the smog. Each of the characters were well-rounded, realistic and likeable, especially the heroine Beth, who with her forward-thinking ways really makes the reader stop and think about how much women today owe to those who fought the equality cause all those years ago.
This is a historical family drama done very well. The ending is left wide open for a sequel and I'd like to think that Kit Domino will let her readers know what happens next for Beth.
My thanks go to Linn and all at The Love A Happy Ending Bookshelf for inviting me to be a reviewer on their new site and sending a copy of Every Step of the Way as my first review.