The Saturday Girls

Written by Elizabeth Woodcraft
Review by Katherine Mezzacappa

On a housing estate in Chelmsford, England in 1964, two teenage girls make decisions for their future: Sandra is desperate to marry bad-boy Danny if he can stay out of gaol long enough, whilst idealistic and likeable Linda, the narrator, is quietly courted by one boy whilst attracted to another who can’t remember her name. Linda marches against the Bomb and dreams of a new life in London. This is Woodcraft’s third novel, but in her postscript she explains that she wrote it, on and off, over a period of thirty years, drawing on her detailed diaries.

Unsurprisingly then, the book does read sometimes like a memoir and is none the worse for it, elegiacally rich as it is in period detail like the songs on the juke-box, the feel and colours of the Mod clothes Linda wears, and the cars the boys drive. Whilst nostalgic for a vanished era, in which teenagers congregated in milk bars and sex was perhaps more wondered about than done, Woodcraft does not avoid the casual cruelties of that time; for example, neighbours cross the road to avoid an unmarried mother.

With an ear for dialogue that brings the reader right alongside a range of vividly-drawn characters, the author writes beautifully about the awakening of love and the awkwardness and hopefulness of being an adolescent girl. Happily, Woodcraft says she has plenty more material to draw upon, and another novel set in this period is in preparation.