Turn Left at the Daffodils
This novel set during the Second World War is the last one to have been written by Elizabeth Elgin before her death in 2005. It follows the stories of three young women who have joined the ATS and are billeted together at Southgate Lodge in rural Lincolnshire.
Carrie has joined up to escape her overpowering mother and her fiancé Jeffrey who is trying to pressure her into marriage. After the death of her father Nan Morrisey has nowhere else to go and so enlists, while Evie is just doing her ‘bit’ as her husband Bob is on active service in the Middle East
Nan and Evie handle the scrambled phone calls that they receive for mysterious government establishment of Heronflete. Carrie works as a driver. The three women find support and friendship together in their quest to overcome their pre-war lives and to find love in a time of tragedy.
Even the least important characters in this novel have a strong sense of individuality. You can’t help but be intrigued by the strict Sergeant James or the Navy Signalman Jim, who is always surrounded by a cloud of tobacco smoke. The characters are all memorable, which is a remarkable achievement especially when matched by the historical detail that has been used to create a real sense of place and time. The smells from the cookhouse, the board games in the NAAFI, the thrill of being able to buy a new lipstick no matter what colour it was. The ‘icing on the cake’ and a real legacy for future generations of readers is that Elizabeth Elgin has caught the emotional resonance of the time. The anxiety felt by Nan when Chas was airborne, the constant need for hot water bottles and bed socks to combat the lack of heating and the bliss at having a cup of hot cocoa to go to bed with. This is more than just a novel, it is an aide-mémoire to enable readers to smell, taste and feel the war from the point of view of a group of ordinary young women.