Title: The Women’s Pages
Author: Victoria Purman
Published: September 2nd 2020
Publisher: HQ Fiction – AU
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
From the bestselling author of The Land Girls comes a beautifully realised novel that speaks to the true history and real experiences of post-war Australian women.
Sydney 1945 The war is over, the fight begins.
The war is over and so are the jobs (and freedoms) of tens of thousands of Australian women. The armaments factories are making washing machines instead of bullets and war correspondent Tilly Galloway has hung up her uniform and been forced to work on the women’s pages of her newspaper – the only job available to her – where she struggles to write advice on fashion and make-up.
As Sydney swells with returning servicemen and the city bustles back to post-war life, Tilly finds her world is anything but normal. As she desperately waits for word of her prisoner-of-war husband, she begins to research stories about the lives of the underpaid and overworked women who live in her own city. Those whose war service has been overlooked; the freedom and independence of their war lives lost to them.
Meanwhile Tilly’s waterside worker father is on strike, and her best friend Mary is struggling to cope with the stranger her own husband has become since being liberated from Changi a broken man. As strikes rip the country apart and the news from abroad causes despair, matters build to a heart-rending crescendo. Tilly realises that for her the war may have ended, but the fight is just beginning…
‘I’m off general news. It’s about the women’s pages for me from now on, where I’ll no doubt spend the rest of my days covering weddings and flower shows and the chairman of the board’s wife’s latest charity fundraiser.’ Tilly heard the bitterness and disappointment in her tone and didn’t care.’
I consider Victoria Purman one of Australia’s leading storytellers in the field of historical fiction. In her latest novel titled The Women’s Pages, Victoria Purman brings to life a difficult transition period in our past, the post-World War II era in Sydney, Australia. The Women’s Pages looks closely at changed gender roles, ambition, careers, resilience, inner strength, love, relationships, friendships, family relations, trauma, loss and hope. Victoria Purman sets the bar high with this latest contribution to the Australian historical fiction genre.
Bestselling author Victoria Purman returns with a novel that takes a closer look at life on the home front in Australia, with a particular focus on women’s experiences during the post-World War II period. Despite the relief of the war being declared as officially over in 1945, many women in Australia lived in limbo. Awaiting word on the return of their prisoner of war husbands, the strength of carry on in these trying times remains pertinent. Many women during this time also struggled to readjust to their post war lives. For lead protagonist of this tale, Tilly Galloway, life as an exciting war correspondent must be cast aside for a new role in reporting for the women’s pages. Tilly finds the fashion and make up side of things a bore in comparison to her war correspondent duties. But Tilly is also preoccupied by thoughts of her husband who has failed to return home after the war. Tilly invests her energies in trying to locate he husband, while also looking into exposing an exclusive story involving women workers who are facing wage restrictions and longer hours. Those who surround Tilly are faced with their own struggles. Tilly’s best friend Mary is dealing with her husband’s PTSD following his imprisonment in Changi. While her father is struggling on the wharf with trade union issues. It becomes clear that for many citizens left behind during the war, Australia faces a new battle and every one must do their part.
With a delay in release, it is wonderful to see The Women’s Pages out there in bookstores for readers to appreciate. I have the feeling that Victoria Purman will gain some new fans thanks to this new release and she also provides her loyal army of fans with a great new historical fiction title. I loved the focus on the post Second World War period in The Women’s Pages. I also appreciated the rich focus on the female experience of this tumultuous and trying time period.
Tilly Galloway is a fabulous lead protagonist. Tilly displays her vulnerability, but also her tenacity and resilience throughout the progression of this story. Tilly exuded plenty of inner strength and I found this inspiring. This giving and ambitious soul injects plenty of life into The Women’s Pages. The interactions that take place between Tilly and her colleagues, friends and family were presented well by the author. I appreciated viewing how relations on the home front during this period impacted so many facets of life. There were many changes, adjustments, strains and opportunities that came about due to the impact of the war. I feel that Victoria Purman presented these everyday moments of life clearly. There is no doubt that Victoria Purman has devoted plenty of time and research to The Women’s Pages. I came way feeling educated, informed and more than little inspired. These were tough times, but so many ordinary Australians made of it what they could.
Victoria Purman presents her readers with a full and involving narrative. We see everything from post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by returned soldiers, to trade union difficulties, tensions experienced by the wharfies, the demise of marriages and family life due to strains of war, economic conditions, housing shortages, employment conditions, political movements and rationing influencing day to day living in post war Sydney. What I found illuminating was Purman’s focus on the female experience. From changed gender relations, employment opportunities, the heightened anxiety of lost loved ones, increased freedom in sexual relations and the challenges faced by women trying to retain roles and pay conditions they achieved during the war. Through the character of Tilly, we see how the media industry, journalism and reporting was forever changed by the effects of the war. These were incredibly hard times, which was very much evident as I made my way through The Women’s Pages.
There is sadness, sorrow, loss, significant change and eventually hope to look to as the characters of The Women’s Pages must learn to negotiate a new Australia. The Women’s Pages is a rich historical fiction title that leaves a strong imprint on the reader, reminding the audience of the struggles faced by our ancestors in the post-World War II period.
The Women’s Pages by Victoria Purman was published on 2nd September 2020 by HQ Fiction – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Women’s Pages, Victoria Purman, visit here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Women’s Pages is book #95 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge