The Girls from Greenway

Written by Elizabeth Woodcraft
Review by Mary Fisk

Chelmsford, Essex, in the mid-1960s, is not the most “happening” of towns. Teenager Angie Smith is bored with her factory job and her “nice” boyfriend. She dreams of a career in fashion and the excitement of London. Boutique-owner Gene Battini is sophisticated (in Angie’s eyes), handsome – and married. He offers her a glimpse of this world she wants, and very quickly, she falls for him – but Gene is an unreliable chancer, who is soon also dating Angie’s older sister, Doreen.

The contradictions in Angie’s character I found believable, with her mix of enthusiasm, naivety, and the ambition to further her career; however, I felt that Doreen’s actions did not quite ring true and I only got the full measure of her character towards the end of the story, when we see the force of her conflicting emotions of anger, confusion and loyalty to her sister.

This is very much a story of ordinary lives in an everyday setting, with nostalgic period detail an intrinsic part of the narrative – food, music, TV programmes, the novelty of going out for a Chinese meal and the correct clothes you should wear to be a ‘proper’ Mod. It is a gently paced, sometimes repetitive story, perhaps over-reliant on this incidental detail and scene-setting, with the real drama only coming in the last quarter when a series of crises threaten to destroy everything the sisters have striven for.