Book review: Proud of You by Mary Wood
War is notorious for tearing loved ones apart… but it can also bring together people in the strangest and most unexpected ways.
And when three women, all from very different backgrounds, meet up through the trials and tribulations of the Second World War, they discover that their lives are linked by events in the past.
Mary Wood, who started self-publishing her novels as e-books three years ago, has never looked back since she won a print contract with Pan Macmillan, one of the UK’s biggest publishing houses.
Wood worked in the probation service in both Lancaster and Blackpool and her hard-hitting and emotional historical novels reflect her own experiences and the harsh realities of life at all levels of society.
The thirteenth child of fifteen to a middle-class mother and an East End barrow boy, Wood’s childhood of ‘love and poverty’ gave her a natural empathy with the less fortunate and a lifelong fascination with social history.
Now a great-grandmother, Wood’s exciting tales of romance and adventure have won her an ever-growing army of devoted readers and admirers.
Well-heeled Alice’s father Ralph D’Olivier died when she was a baby and since then she has lived with the shame he left behind. He was branded a traitor after apparently betraying his country in the Great War and Alice had an unhappy childhood at the hands of her cruel mother and abusive nanny.
A boarding school education in Belgium helped her to speak fluently in both French and German and when the Second World War breaks out, she volunteers to work as an agent with the Special Operations Executive.
Dispatched undercover to Paris, she meets Gertrude, a former prostitute working on a dangerous assignment for the Resistance Movement. Together they discover that they have a connection to Alice’s father and vow to unravel the mystery that still surrounds his death.
After narrowly escaping capture by the Germans, Alice is lifted out of France and taken to a London hospital for wounded officers where she meets nurse Lil Moisley, a working-class girl from Yorkshire. Though their lives are worlds apart, Alice and Lil form a friendship, and Alice discovers that Lil also has links to her father.
But soon the war brings heartache and strife beyond anything these three young women have had to endure before. Can they clear Ralph’s name and find lasting love and happiness for themselves?
Wood is a born storyteller not afraid to tackle dark, emotive and sometimes uncomfortable issues. She plays out the individual stories of the three women with compassion and insight, building a moving, action-packed wartime tale full of bravery, pathos, passion and adventure.
Romance with a dark edge…
(Pan, paperback, £6.99)