THE SOLDIER’S WIFE – Pamela Hart
Sydney, Australia, 1915, Ruby and Jimmy Hawkins are newlyweds from Bourke. Jimmy is embarking on a troop ship for the war at Gallipoli. Ruby has decided to find accommodation and work in Sydney and wait for his return. They are young, innocent and dreaming of their life together when the war is over. Ruby finds a job as a bookkeeper in a timber yard (a male dominated workplace) and is grudgingly given the position because of the shortage of men.
Hart has researched the era well and transports the reader back to a time when women stayed at home and social restraints were firmly enforced by both sexes. The story evoked childhood memories from my grandmother of outside toilets, a bath in a round tin tub on the kitchen floor and heated with hot water from the kettle on the wood stove. Bread and milk were delivered to the house and the iceman called to fill the icebox. Bread and dripping was a meal and a treat was to buy fish and chips. A halfpenny would buy a water iceblock or a handful of sweets from the big glass jars on the grocer’s counter.
Jimmy does come back from the war but is physically and mentally damaged. Ruby and Jimmy have to come to terms with the changed attitudes of Australia; the war has taken away innocence and nothing would ever be the same. They realise they have to adapt for their marriage to survive. Life in pre-war Australia has changed forever.
Hart has based the plot around stories told to her of her grandfather; Arthur Freeman and his time in the infantry in the First World War. Nostalgic, enjoyable and I recommend it for a very pleasant read.
Pamela Hart has published other stories under the name of Pamela Freeman and won awards for her work.