The Runaway Daughter By Joanna Rees: Immaculately researched, teeming with vibrant characters, full of twists and turns, and with fascinating insights into flapper girl fashions - book review -

The Runaway Daughter
The Runaway Daughter
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Forced to go on the run from her home in the heart of industrial Lancashire, Anna Darton discovers an exciting and liberating new life with the Bright Young Things of London.

Forced to go on the run from her home in the heart of industrial Lancashire, Anna Darton discovers an exciting and liberating new life with the Bright Young Things of London.

But even with a new name, and working in the exuberant and fashionable nightclubs of the big city in the roaring Twenties, shocking events in the past are never far behind.

Joanna Rees, author of fifteen novels, including glorious rom-coms, page-turning blockbusters and big-hearted adventures such as The Tides of Change and A Twist of Fate, makes a welcome return with a sweeping saga full of show dancing, gorgeous fashion, ambitious flapper girls, and dangerous enemies.

The Runaway Daughter is the first novel in A Stitch in Time, a dazzling historical trilogy which is steeped in the atmosphere, romance, and wild hedonism of a nation awakening from the grief and horrors of the First World War, and revelling in a host of new-found social and domestic freedoms.

It’s 1926 and Anna Darton is on a midnight escape from her home, Darton Hall, in the industrial heartland of Lancashire where her father owns a mill, and from a shocking crime that she feels she was forced into committing.

Alone and frightened, she sneaks on board a train heading for London, knowing that she must reinvent herself ‘to cope with this terrifying descent into her future.’ On the way, she decides that henceforth she will be Verity (Vita) Casey because for the first time in her life, ‘she was free to be the truest version of herself.’

Arriving in London fills her with ‘a strange, nervous euphoria’ which quickly evaporates when she finds herself a lone fugitive in a terrifying metropolis with virtually no money and not a friend in the world.

But salvation comes in the form of Nancy, a sassy American dancer at a notorious nightclub off the Strand called The Zip. Using the name Vita Casey, Anna becomes part of the line-up and is thrown into a highly-charged world of dancing, parties, flapper girls and fashion.

And when she meets the dashing Archie Fenwick, Vita buries her guilty conscience and believes him when he says he will love her no matter what. But unknown to Vita, her past is fast catching up with her, and when the people closest to her start getting hurt, she is forced to confront events back Darton Hall or risk losing everything she holds dear.

From the mills and hills of industrial Lancashire to the vibrancy and volatility of London’s clubs and fashionable young sets, Rees delivers a gripping and glamorous story propelled by one young woman’s desperate battle to leave behind heartache, cruelty, and a dark secret.

Alongside Vita’s adventures both on and off stage in London’s high spots is an undercurrent of menace which adds a thrilling frisson to the author’s rich evocation of women enjoying their long-overdue independence, and a city determined to throw off the sombre pall of wartime death and destruction.

Social issues like homosexuality, the early beginnings of the feminist movement, drug usage and workers’ rights are also explored as the old Anna’s past is slowly revealed, and the new Vita immerses herself in the extravagances of the post-war period.

Immaculately researched, teeming with vibrant characters, full of twists and turns, and with fascinating insights into flapper girl fashions, The Runaway Daughter is a tale of self-reinvention and finding love, and is a captivating start to what promises to be an exciting trilogy.

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)