The Shipyard Girls

Written by Nancy Revell
Review by Martin Bourne

1940, and Britain is at war and the majority of young adult men are off fighting, creating a shortage of skilled labour. The obvious solution is to co-opt women into the factories. Huge numbers duly “did their bit”, at the same time becoming the vanguard of female entry into traditional male workplaces.

This is the story of a group of such women becoming welders in a (fictional) Tyneside shipyard. This is an interesting backdrop, and it could have been very insightful, but unfortunately, it comes over as window dressing. The novel instead concentrates pretty much exclusively on the women’s assorted personal relationships, and soon degenerates into stock romantic fiction, in which the clichés of the genre are well represented. This is disappointing, as the early fears of Luftwaffe visits and the descriptions of the art of welding are well done, giving a good flavour without swamping the reader with too much detail. In short, although I can see why women would want to read this, it could have been a much better story than it actually is.