Monday, 22 August 2011

The Yellow Duster Sisters

A couple of weeks ago I went to the launch of The Yellow Duster Sisters by Susan Kennaway, who is married to my husband's cousin, so she's also Susie Vereker.  (My father-in-law was one of 8 children so there's a wide age-range in the extended family.)
All sorts of interesting publishing luminaries attended including Alexandra Pringle of Bloomsbury, Adam Sisman, currently researching a biography of John le CarrĂ©, and Elizabeth Speller (of whom more soon), plus the news presenter Emily Maitlis, even more glamorous in the flesh than on TV. (Later: I now hear I missed meeting Lesley Garrett!)
Before she married a Vereker, the other Susie was the widow of the Scottish writer James Kennaway and author of The Kennaway Papers.  She said she originally wrote the Yellow Duster Sisters for her grandchildren so they'd know about WW2 from a child's point of view and what happened in her family.

I've now read the book and found it a fascinating account of a disjointed and difficult wartime childhood, amusing and sad at the same time, well written and absorbing.

Here's the blurb. "1939. Nine-year-old Susie and her sister Gyll live in Watford and all week look forward to their Saturday shopping expedition to Woolworths, accompanied by their nanny Alice, to buy something nice for Mummy. But as war breaks out across Europe, Susie and Gyll are evacuated to Africa. Alone on a dusty continent, the sisters find little to like about their new way of life and get no sympathy from their guardians, especially a devout aunt who forces them to be in bed by six o’clock.

Feeling increasingly abandoned as the years pass and letters from home stop arriving, the sisters dream desperately of escape and cling fervently to their memories of idyllic England. When they do finally reach British shores, only a few weeks after D-Day, there is no one to meet them at Liverpool Docks. At their father’s new home in Gloucestershire, they find a strange woman living with him and gradually learn that their mother has moved away and joined the Polish army. Life only gets stranger when they are sent to Cheltenham Ladies College.

Wonderfully evocative, funny and charming, Susan Kennaway writes about the difficult challenges of growing up during the Second World War with rare honesty and insight. The Yellow Duster Sisters is a moving and unusual exploration of the often ignored, and often destructive, nature of shifting war-time family relationships."

Here's an article in The Daily Mail with photos from the book.


Debs Carr said...

This book sounds wonderful. I feel a shopping spree coming on.

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

This sounds interesting Susie, thanks for drawing my attention to the other Susie Vereker's writing, I have added it to My Wishlist.

liz fenwick said...

Wow, Susie, you've sold it to me.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like a book I want to read.
The photograph reminds me of one of my mother and aunt. Their lives were much less grand, though!