Home Fires and Spitfires (Wartime Midwives Series)

Written by Daisy Styles
Review by Jasmina Svenne

It is 1940 and, after recent upheavals, Mother and Baby Home Mary Vale in the Lake District is ready to receive new patients. These include cheery shipyard welder Gracie, abandoned by the cad who seduced her; middle-class Diana from the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, whose fiancé has vanished during a secret mission; and German-Jewish refugee Zelda, who faces prejudice wherever she goes. And then there is Sister Ada and the new doctor Jamie, who might turn out to be the love of her life – if war doesn’t intervene.

This book belongs to the cosy end of the saga spectrum. Although the blurb speaks of differences between the central characters, Gracie, Zelda and Diana bond instantly and the “villains” who are mean to Zelda are quickly dispatched. Characterisation is thin and Ada is so perfect that she brings out the schoolgirl urge in me to play some prank on her, just to get a rise out of her.

This is the second book in a series that could have several sequels, but the background is quickly, if somewhat clunkily, filled in (some of it in dialogue in which characters tell one another things they already know). Of the four strands, Diana’s is perhaps the most effective, with some genuinely poignant moments, but Zelda seems weirdly indifferent to the fate of family and friends left behind in Germany, seemingly more bothered about RAF bombs than she is about the escalation of anti-Semitic persecution.

The author clearly knows the Lake District and describes it vividly. However, this novel is so sweet, it’s like being attacked by a giant marshmallow. Strictly for saga fans.