A World War II British land girls’ story by one of the script writers of the excellent House of Elliot, it is a pity her novel writing fails to match that. This third book of a trilogy surprises as the author shows little grasp of simple, rapid, modern book form. It is written in a learned and complex way yet deals with the most basic of working-class farming matters. This is a longwinded record of the lives of a group of land girls, their minders and employers. Alice of the title looks after and feeds the girls.
On page 82, there is the beginning of a story, but while the author shows a consummate use of the English language, the host of characters, unconnected events, and overbearingly long sentences, with innumerable clauses, make it a difficult read. A good book should be clear in structure as well as revealing something of human relationships. When not engaged in the brilliance of her complex English, the writer can tell stories in an immaculate way. But not with a sentence of 124 words with eight internal clauses, as on page 89. Or chapters of 30 pages, where the blackness of type is off-putting.
Despite all, there are some exquisite moments as at a wedding. Fat, smelly Mabel (just given birth to twins) marries lame Ferdie whom she’s ‘taken up with’. She notices damp patches on her borrowed white wedding dress. ‘Whoops,’ she says. ‘It’s me milk fer me babies! I’d best go feed the little brutes’ fore it ruins me frock!’
There is conflict, romance with GIs, one or two weddings and lots of smelly wellies too. As might be expected from a script writer, Julia handles dialogue very well. A truly delightful cover belies its somewhat stodgy content.