Secrets of the Railway Girls

Written by Maisie Thomas
Review by Julie Parker

Manchester, 1940. The story plays out around Victoria Railway Station in the centre of Manchester, where The Railway Girls have replaced the men who worked there and who are away at war. They keep the passenger and postal service going and keep the track maintained. The descriptions of the bombing raids that took place before and after Christmas 1940 are very vivid, as are the descriptions of the aftermath and the destruction and devastation of buildings and lives.

There is much about this book to like in the descriptions (and importance) of food, clothing and leisure that keep the inhabitants going. There is a ‘further reading’ section at the end of the book with details of real-life accounts of wartime Manchester. The novel is full of women: in particular Dot (married mother with sons at war); Joan (living with her Gran and sister after the loss of her father) and Mabel (from a wealthy family further north, but recovering from a tragic car accident) – but there are a few men as well. There is Bob, Joan’s boyfriend and signalman on the railway; Mr Thirkle, Dot’s secret friend, and Mabel’s handsome new boyfriend, Harry. The women gain strength from the support of each other and their regular after-work meetings at the station buffet. Few of the characters remain untouched by tragedy and problems of the heart, but together they see it through. This book is for those interested in stories of the Home Front, wartime Manchester and romantic sagas. This volume is a sequel to The Railway Girls but can be read alone; The Railway Girls in Love will follow.