"Churchill's Angels" by Ruby Jackson is a beautifully written and deeply engaging book that takes the reader back to the world of seven decades ago, a dark world in which Britain found itself fighting for survival in the early years of the Second World War. Grace, Sally, and twins Daisy and Rose are four friends living in Dartford in Kent, who each find their own way of dealing with the dramatically changed and changing world around them. Grace joins the Women's Land Army as a way of escaping an unhappy home life. Sally is destined for a career as an actress, despite the stage school she is about to join closing down for the duration. And Rosie goes to work in a munitions factory.
Ruby Jackson is a Scottish writer living in Angus, and "Churchill's Angels" is the first in a series of books dealing with the lives and wartime experiences of the four friends. This book takes as its central character the fourth of the girls, Daisy, who feels obliged to stay at home and work in the family greengrocers shop while her three brothers go off to war and her sister makes her contribution to the war effort in the munitions factory. But two events bring into sharp focus her determination to do much more. Daisy witnesses a horrifying event that sparks a hatred of those seeking to conquer her country; and through her mechanical skills, honed through years of working on the family delivery van, she meets RAF pilot Adair and helps him restore his private light aircraft to flying condition. In return he gives her a flying lesson, and she finds herself increasingly hooked, on flying and on Adair.
The account of how Daisy Petrie pursues her dreams in the face of personal tragedy and institutional adversity keeps you turning the page, and while the cover art of a young woman in a flying overall and helmet gives a strong indication of where the story is going, we thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting there.
The passage of time means that few readers will have lived through the events described and be able to recall them in any detail, but most readers will have an idea of what Britain was like in the early war years, so getting the background right is important. Ruby Jackson's historical setting is superbly drawn and totally believable, and this adds much to a thoroughly good read.