Book review: Coronation Wives by Lizzie Lane

The war may be over but peacetime brings new challenges for three women from Bristol... not least their buried secrets.
Coronation WivesCoronation Wives
Coronation Wives

Lizzie Lane takes up the story of three friends, which she began in her warm and earthy novel Wartime Brides, and fast forwards eight years to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

As always in Lane’s compelling sagas, drama and romance take centre stage as she whisks us away to another age. Warm and wise, funny and heartbreaking, her well-crafted stories never fail to capture the authentic atmosphere and spirit of times gone by.

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Here, post-war Bristol comes to vivid life with its legacy of potholed roads, crumbling walls and mountains of rubble, all strangely offset by a sea of red, white and blue bunting which heralds a new Elizabethan era but seems optimistically garish in the aftermath of war.

Inside the city, three very different women – Polly Hills, Edna Smith and Charlotte Hennessey-White – are still counting the cost of those six long years of conflict.

Tough nut Polly is haunted by memories of her Canadian airman boyfriend Gavin who was killed on active service. She longs for an easier, more glamorous life, but knows that is unlikely with her irrepressible young daughter and her charming, scheming husband Billy who has an inclination for the less legal ways of making money.

Middle class Charlotte, with her stiff manner but inner vulnerability, is trying desperately to forget her illicit wartime romance and accept the shortcomings of her marriage to David, a man left mentally scarred by his experiences of war.

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And Edna, married to the kind, loving Colin who runs a successful business despite losing both his legs in a wartime blast, is desperate to protect her young family, even if it means keeping painful secrets…

Nostalgic, gritty and with the softest of centres, Coronation Brides serves up a beguiling story with sensitivity, authenticity and a big helping of Lane’s trademark warmth.

(Ebury, paperback, £5.99)

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