The Girls from Greenway by Elizabeth Woodcraft: A walk down memory lane for older readers… and a journey of discovery for the younger generation! - book review -

The Girls from Greenway
The Girls from Greenway
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For some, the Sixties was all about the infamous Summer of Love… but for others, it was music, fashion, Motown music, mods and rockers, scooters and milk-bars

For some, the Sixties was all about the infamous Summer of Love… but for others, it was music, fashion, Motown music, mods and rockers, scooters and milk-bars.

Elizabeth Woodcraft, who grew up in Chelmsford in Essex in the Swinging Sixties, has turned to her own teenage diaries for a nostalgic and drama-packed saga starring two sisters coming of age in a world very different to their parents.

Using her own diary entries, faithfully recording conversations with friends, new releases by pop groups, what was number 1 in the charts, the price of clothes and the political issues of the day, Woodcraft, a retired barrister, weaves a captivating tale of hope, aspiration and new beginnings after the deprivation and fears of the Second World War.

It’s the early Sixties and Angie Smith lives in a council house in Greenway, Chelmsford, with her elder sister Doreen, their struggling mother and their drunk, violent father who gambles away his window cleaning earnings.

Straight-talking and daring, Angie, 18, is bored with her job at the local English Electric factory. A talented seamstress, she has always wanted to be a fashion designer and is secretly taking evening classes so that she can apply for a new job in the fashion industry.

Angie is also bored with her dull, ordinary but safe and reliable boyfriend, Roger. She knows he’s everything her mother wants for her but Angie dreams of bigger and better things in life than just marriage and motherhood.

But then she meets boutique owner, Gene Battini, who has just opened a new men’s fashion shop in Greenway. Gene, from London, is older, handsome, charming and married but Angie is completely swept off her feet.

Her older sister, Doreen, is wary of men like Gene and knows that Angie is at risk if she believes that it will be all ‘sweet love and romance.’ But when she goes to his boutique to warn him off Angie, Doreen finds herself falling for him too, and their affair will have disastrous consequences.

As things at home go from bad to worse, Angie and Doreen must fight for what they want, but can two ordinary girls from Greenway ever achieve their dreams?

Woodcraft perfectly captures the brave new world of the Sixties in this enchanting and engrossing story of two very different sisters facing unforeseen battles in their struggle to achieve more out of life and work than women had ever before dared to imagine.

The music, clothes, recreation pursuits and romantic entanglements of Angie and Doreen spring to life with an authentic charm, and offer a fascinating portrait of both the excitement and pitfalls of growing up in a time of great social change.

Woodcraft has said that she chose to write about the Sixties because she enjoyed it so much and her genuine love of the era shines through in this beautifully written saga which brims with the spirit of youth and is rich in period detail.

A walk down memory lane for older readers… and a journey of discovery for the younger generation!

(Zaffre, paperback, £6.99)