Yorkshire 1983. Miner’s wife Mandy is stuck in a rut. At twenty-three, and trapped by domesticity, her future looks set and she wants more from life. Husband Rob is a good-looking drinker, content to spend his days in the small town where they’ve always lived – where Mandy can’t do anything other than bake cakes and raise her children. When Mandy’s childhood friend – beautiful, clever Ruth – and Ruth’s Falklands war hero husband, Dan, return to town, their homecoming is shrouded in mystery. Like in their schooldays, Mandy looks to Ruth for inspiration – but Ruth isn’t all she appears. As conflict with the Coal Board turns into war, the men come out on strike. The community and its whole way of life is threatened. Mandy abandons her dreams of liberation from the kitchen sink and joins a support group. As the strike rumbles on, relationships are pushed to the brink, and Mandy finds out just who she is – and who her true friends are.
Public Battles, Private Wars sounded a bit different to the sort of story I usually go for and I was unsure how I’d find it. I wasn’t around during the miner’s strikes when Margaret Thatcher was in power so I thought that I might learn one or two things about what went on and the experiences that the people involved went through. I am so glad that I got the chance to review this novel as I absolutely loved it.
I feel as though I have learnt so much about the struggles and difficulties that the miners and their families faced during the early 1980s. I was shocked at how hard life was for the residents of Fenley, how impossible the economy and employment were (Mandy being frankly advised that she would be better off staying on benefits than looking for a job and that ‘she’d be lucky’ if she could find anything) This novel is so thoroughly researched and I love a story like this; where you’re reading and enjoying the storyline but learning so much new information too.
Saying all that in no way did the political side and the mining situation overshadow the story of the characters. It was just an event that happened, whilst people’s lives played out along side it, which I really liked. It’s a realistic novel and you’ll find yourself placing and identifying with the characters easily, especially Mandy who was fantastic. She’s such a strong character and also really believable. Caring and loyal she also makes a mean cake…what’s not to love? Ruth was a brilliantly drawn character too who you never quite know what to make of. Whilst I disliked her and her behaviour towards Mandy I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her too.
What makes Public Battles, Private Wars so great is how fact is written alongside fiction. It’s a story that will keep you guessing, there are plenty of twists and turns and things don’t necessarily end up as you think they will.
I loved Mandy’s journey of self discovery that took place alongside all of the events in the story. You’ll be amazed at her transformation towards the end of the book, and I found her tale to be really inspirational.
The Yorkshire setting was fantastic and the community spirit in Fenley really shines through which makes for really enjoyable reading. There’s a sprinkling of humour too, usually courtesy of Ethel.
The story flows really well and you can’t help but be swept up by the battles facing Fenley. A hugely enjoyable, fascinating and emotional story. If you lived through those difficult times in the early 80s then you’ll definitely be able to identify with this novel and if not you’ll definitely be able to learn something from it, I know I have.
I originally reviewed this novel for Girls Love To Read. My review has also been published on Amazon & Goodreads. After I chose Public Battles, Private Wars as one of my favourite books of 2014, I thought it was about time I shared the review on Bookaholic Confessions too…
I grew up in a Welsh market town and now live in Brighton with my husband and two boys. As well as writing fiction, I work as an editor for literary consultancy, Cornerstones. I write women’s fiction as Laura Wilkinson and steamy romance as L.C.Wilkinson.
All of Him, no.2 in the Rapture series, is out in the late spring. What do my different genres have in common? Compelling stories, fascinating characters, and ideas that make you think a little. At least I hope so!