Even in the darkest of times, she never gave up hope
Staffordshire, 1911. Ginnie Jones’s childhood is spent in the shadow of the famous Potteries, living with her mother, father and older sister Mabel. But with Father’s eyesight failing, money is in short supply, and too often the family find their bellies aching with hunger. With no hope in sight, Ginnie is sent to Haddon Workhouse.
Separated from everything she has known, Ginnie has to grow up fast, earning her keep by looking after the other children with no families of their own. When she meets Clara and Sam, she hopes that she has made friends for life… until tragedy strikes, snatching away her newfound happiness.
Leaving Haddon three years later, Ginnie finds work as a mouldrunner at the Potteries but never stops thinking about her friends in the workhouse – especially Sam, now a caring, handsome young man. When Sam and Ginnie are reunited, their bond is as strong as ever – until Sam is sent to fight in WW1. Faced with uncertainty, can Ginnie find the joy that she’s never had? Or will her heart be broken once again? An emotional, uplifting and nostalgic family saga that will make you smile, while tugging on your heart-strings.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review
Good historical family sagas require believable and complex characters who are easy to empathise. Detailed historical knowledge of the place and time, which filters into the story, making it authentic, and allowing the reader to share the sights, smells and sounds of the era. Finally, angst and hardship that allows the protagonist’s character to develop positively, giving hope that they will find a way out of their plight. ‘The Girl From the Workhouse’, encompasses all of the above and is a heartrending, heartwarming and motivational story.
Ginnie is a young girl who has always grown-up in poverty. Sadly, life becomes increasingly difficult and she and her parents have to go on Poor Relief and live in the workhouse. The family are split up and the first part of the story explores Ginnie’s experiences as a girl in the workhouse environment. Her motivations and emotions are in keeping with her years, and you feel for her, she is so alone. Despite, this she works hard and makes friends, and forms a new family which makes her days bearable. Her life continues to be dogged by hardship and tragedy until she finally leaves the workhouse to live with her older sister who is married and needs an extra wage coming into the household.
The second part of the story follows Ginnie’s transition into a young woman, how she copes with coming of age, and her reacquaintance with her workhouse friend Sam. At this point, you hope for some genuine happiness in her troubled young life, but WW1 draws Sam into its conflict and once again her future and happiness is uncertain.
The setting in ‘The Potteries’ gives the story its authenticity and richness, the author’ connection and feeling for the area make this fictional story more believable. The saga is enriched with historical detail and events, and its characters are authentic to the period and very engaging.
Lynn Johnson was born in the Staffordshire Potteries and went to school in Burslem, where the novel is set. She left school with no qualifications and got a job as a dental nurse (and lasted a day), a nursery assistant, and a library assistant before her ambition grew and she enrolled at the Elms Technical College, Stoke-on-Trent and obtained six O’levels. She obtained a Diploma in Management Studies and a BA Hons in Humanities with Literature from the Open University while working full-time.
Most of her working life was spent in Local Government in England and Scotland, and ultimately became a Human Resources Manager with a large county council.
She started to write after taking early retirement and moving to the north of Scotland with her husband where she did relief work in the famous Orkney Library and Archives, and voluntary work with Orkney’s Learning Link. Voluntary work with Cats Protection resulted in them sharing their home with six cats.
She joined Stromness Writing Group and, three months after moving to Orkney wrote a short story which would become the Prologue to The Girl From the Workhouse.