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Twenty-year-old Jane Beacon is one of life’s mavericks - a young sea-woman who navigates her own life-course against convention, against the odds, against expectation. The setting is 1940 Dunkirk and Jane has risen from joining the Wren Cadets in 1939 to single-handedly skippering a naval cutter to rescue injured soldiers. From the opening pages Jane’s formidable spirit and wit is brought to the fore, as are the prejudices of the time: “Very largely the Navy has accepted us and they know that we Wren have done a huge amount of good work, But there is always a limit to male tolerance and if you cross it, as I have done frequently, the barriers can suddenly be very high.”
Readers will no doubt be swept along by Jane’s rip-roaringly reckless exploits, her unwavering commitment to the war effort, and her disregard for doing things by the book (she’s a loveable rogue, of sorts, described by her female superintendent as having “the most lurid disciplinary record in the service…she doesn’t give a damn about authority”). Fascinating research and Jane’s intense personal coming-of-age story are interwoven into the adventure, making this a tightly-packed parcel of passion, action, humour and history.
Dunkirk 1940. The British Army is saved from annihilation by the Royal Navy and a myriad of small boats. But why is a girl there, driving a naval motor cutter to take troops to the ships lying off the beaches under constant bombardment? “This was no place for a woman” is the Navy’s official view of her presence, yet to Wren Jane Beacon it seemed a natural place to be. Joining the Wrens (the Women’s Royal Naval Service) in October 1939, she had become their first experimental boat crew Wren and by May 1940, she was an expert in handling small boats.
A strong, determined and independently minded young lady, always at a bit of an angle to authority, her natural impulsiveness has taken her to Dunkirk; “to do her bit” and she succeeds brilliantly, despite direct orders not to go.
Wren Jane Beacon goes to War is about much more than her exploits at Dunkirk, however, central though they were to her development; the book tells the whole story of her coming of age under extreme conditions. Being a Wren would not have been her chosen path in life – a place at Oxford University was open to her, but the call of duty to serve her country in its grim fight for survival, overwhelms this. A tough choice in 1939 for a girl not yet out of her teens, but she makes an outstanding, if chequered, success of it.
At the beginning of World War Two, women still lived limited lives. Without consciously trying to, Wren Jane Beacon is in the vanguard of young women striking out to new relationships with authority and the male of the species, while shaking the social order to its foundations. Not least, her independent approach to her sexuality is of a new order.
All this and more is to be found in this first novel in an exciting new series. Within the framework of a ‘rattling good read’, this is a portrait of life in historic changing times, set against a sweeping panorama of the War. It is a well told, well-researched and deeply-considered book about human relationships; the Royal Navy; and women’s place in the world.
Closing date: 03/10/2019
Publication date: 26/02/2018
|Publication date:||26th February 2018|
|Author:||D J Lindsay|
|Genres:||Action Adventure / Spy, Historical Fiction,|
Douglas J Lindsay was born to the sea. His parents both came from sailor families and when his father went back to sea for the duration of the Second World War, his mother followed the ship to its new base in Scotland, where the author was born in 1941. His father sailed on the small coaster Drumlough, which the family owned. It ran as a supply ship for the fleet at Scapa Flow, operating up and down the east coast of the United Kingdom. Remarkably, from 1939 to 1945 it was never touched by enemy action. The family lived in a wooden shack ...More About D J Lindsay