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Petrina Banfield is a writer, mother and bookworm. She has always wanted to write, but kept her dream under wraps while working at Surrey Police during the day, and ghosting books for other people at night. Petrina's other passion, for fostering and adoption, was sparked in her teenage years, after discovering that her father was taken into care as a young baby and then separated from his identical twin at the age of five. Petrina registered as a foster carer in 2007 and became an adoptive parent a few years later, but it was in trying to reassemble the scattered fragments of her father's childhood puzzle, that her two passions finally collided. Captivated by the heart stopping drama of the true-life stories documented within the hospital almoners' reports held at the London Metropolitan Archive, Petrina was driven to find out more about these early social workers' remarkable work. The result is Letters From Alice, a gripping and deeply moving tale which brings the colourful world of the 1920s to life.
Letters from Alice is an enchanting mix of mystery, social history and family dynamics. It focuses on the work of almoners (usually women), who were the forerunners to modern social workers, responsible for the welfare of hospital patients and their families. Petrina Banfield brings to life the sounds, sights and aromas of 1920s London in a cleverly crafted drama that reads like fiction but is steeped in fact. I was mesmerised by almoner Alice Hudson’s story, which is based on original archive material – reports, newspaper articles, letters, receipts and even weather reports. Letters from Alice was hard to put down, with its realistic colourful characters, a mystery to solve and vivid descriptions of the grit and grime of the poorest parts of London. This is a thought-provoking read and also incredibly moving, highlighting the hardships experienced by many families at that time. Yet despite the sadness of the story, I also found myself full of hope, knowing that these hardworking almoners were fighting for patients’ rights and welfare. If you have an interest in social history (whether non-fiction or fiction), this is a perfect choice for you - a delightful story, a learning experience and a joy to read. Perfect for fans of Call the Midwife and other British dramas.