‘The Heart Stone’ by Judith Barrow is a historical fiction novel set during World War One and is set in the Mill Towns on the Pennines. I, myself, am from Oldham, which was predominantly once a mill town too, so I did feel a little nostalgic as soon as I read the synopsis and saw that the main character, Jessie, had a trip to Blackpool. My grandmother worked in the mills and Blackpool was the holiday of the year usually during Oldham Wakes, the only time the mills shut for their annual holidays. So I settled down knowing ‘The Heartstone’ would definitely turn back time for me.
Sixteen-year-old Jessie watches her friend Arthur marching off to fight in World War One just as they have found their friendship turning to a lot more. Jessie finds herself with a stepfather she both hates and fears due to her mum feeling like she needs protecting and remarrying. Jessie finds herself in a bad situation when she discovers the consequences of young love. Arthur’s mum does her best to support Jessie all the while dealing with her own issues and worries. Jessie finds herself at a crossroads, does she wait and hope at home for Arthur…if he ever returns or does she, as we say here ‘ make do and mend’
A tale that does not spare the horrors of war. The acts the young soldiers, fresh from home, had to commit just to survive. Judith Barrow also paints a gritty, heart-rending picture of the poor women left behind. The soul-destroying wait for the knock at the door while still attempting some pretence of carrying on with their lives. As I said I was gripped. I found this book truly absorbing and found myself reflecting on my great-grandparents and how the First World War would have affected them. The women and the men, all torn away from their everyday lives, just as Jessie and Arthur were.
A pretty emotional but excellent story. It is so close to home that I was immersed from the start and really wanted to know what would happen. I flew through the book in no time.
Thanks to Random Things Blog Tours and Honno Press for my copy of the book and my place on the Blog Tour today.