The Other Side of the Street by Helen Carey ** Blog Tour Author Post**

I love historical fiction set in the twentieth century, so I'm absolutely delighted to be taking part in the celebrations for Helen Carey's fifth Lavender Road novel, The Other Side of the Street. It is marvellous to be able to welcome Helen to Books, Life and Everything with a great author post on 'Finding Inspiration'.


When people discover that I’m a writer they often nod knowingly. ‘I’d love to write a novel,’ they say. ‘If only I could think of a good plot.’ But often it’s not a plot that starts me off. It’s more likely to be a theme, an event, a story or a character that attracts my interest. The plot comes later.

For my Lavender Road series it was an old lady I met at a bus stop in Clapham. We fell into conversation and she told me she had lived in the area right through the Second World War. As we waited for the bus at the edge of Clapham Common she pointed out an indentation on the grass where a V2 had landed in 1944, and gestured across to the now grassed-over bomb shelters where, as a child, she had often sheltered during the Blitz. Laura was a born and bred South Londoner and spoke of traumatic wartime events with a kind of rough-and-ready humour and breezy unconcern that transported me back to those extraordinary years. The bus came along just then, but from that short encounter was born the idea of writing a series of novels exploring the day-to-day ups and downs, highs and lows, of people living in one south London street during World War Two. 

The Other Side of the Street is the fifth novel in my Lavender Road series and I am still finding the Second World War a fascinating period to write about. So much happened during those six years, especially in London. As well as the bombing and the fear of invasion, there was also a kind of breaking down both of class and of traditional male/female roles. People who previously would have never met were thrown together, often in unusual circumstances. The privations of war and the constant anxiety for friends and family put extra pressure on everyone, and people coped in different ways, often with a gritty (and sometimes hilarious) sense of humour. 

I have always been interested in the way people often show unexpected strength in difficult circumstances. The war offered me so many avenues to explore, whether it be a wannabe actress fighting for the chance to get into ENSA, or two girls fighting for their lives in an Italian POW camp, or, as in The Other Side of the Street, a ‘posh’, headstrong and rather spoiled young woman finding herself (to her horror) having to enrol in the strict, disciplinarian women’s army, the ATS.  

My research gave me a plethora of stories – some poignant, some tragic, some funny – and allowed me to meet so many wonderful people who had lived through those difficult and challenging years. 
Sadly, many of those people have now passed on. And it was their memories that I found the most interesting element of my research when I first started writing the Lavender Road books. Yes, historical records are great, but nothing compares with someone telling you first hand what it was like to be caught in an underground station when a bomb severed the water main, or to crawl through the cellars of a collapsed building searching for a trapped child, or to take a tiny riverboat over to rescue stranded soldiers at Dunkirk, or to be parachuted into occupied France.

That is one of the odd things about the war; people who lived through it often look back as though it was all quite ordinary. But it wasn’t, it was quite extraordinary, and it forced people to show extraordinary amounts of courage and resilience. That’s what makes it such a fascinating and inspiring period to write (and hopefully read) about.
 About the book

It's 1944. Londoners are weary of air raids and rationing. But now, with rumours of an invasion of France, the tide of war seems to be turning. In Lavender Road, however, everyone still has challenges to face.
Young widow Louise Rutherford longs to make a new life for herself. When a glamorous American officer arrives at her factory to recruit volunteers for a secret project, she senses an opportunity, only to find her efforts hampered by ten-year-old war orphan, George Nelson.
Jen Carter's relationship with theatrical producer Henry Keller hits a hurdle when an old flame reappears. And when V1 retaliation rockets start hitting London, her mother Joyce's tentative romance is threatened too.
Will the war finally wear down the women of Lavender Road, or can love thrive even in the toughest of times?
My Thoughts 
The Second World War is such an interesting period of time and I can understand why Helen has chosen to write about it. The Home Front underwent such social changes and women in particular played a huge part in keeping life going and contributing to the war effort. I appreciate how Helen tries to show you how these changes impacted on the community in Lavender Road, highlighting how not all of the inhabitants welcomed the greater freedom women were experiencing in the workplace and at home. Although there are romances being played out, there is a lot more going on as well. 

   There are so many varied characters, some supplying humour even in the darkest circumstances.  There is also lots of period detail which gives the story such an authentic feel. It made me cast my mind back to stories passed on to me by older members of my family who lived through this time - I could almost taste the wartime sponge recipe which was still produced in my family, well into the 1960's, with varying degrees of success! The novel is a real celebration of how ordinary people 'got on with it' and muddled through, showing great courage in what were sometimes grim times.

In short: a wartime story full of authentic detail and believable characters.

To find out more about Helen Carey and her books, visit her Website, find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.
Book link: Amazon UK 

Thanks to Helen Carey, and Headline Publishing for a copy of the book and a place on the tour. 

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