Book review: The Golden Sisters, Alrene Hughes
This is the second book in a trilogy about four sisters and their mother, a widow who is proud of her daughters. Their growing up was brought to us in Alrene’s first book, Martha’s Girls, now however, they are young women working and living through the war years.
It’s a great story that brings the reader all the atmosphere of the early 40s in Belfast.
There’s the heartache of young Sheila being evacuated to Dungannon but for me the most interesting character is Pat; she works at Stormont for the Ministry of Public Security where an order has gone out that the building must be painted with pitch and cow dung for camouflage purposes because it gleams white in the moonlight and is a point of reference for the German bombers!
Fascinating is the mission to Dublin by Pat and her colleague William on behalf of the British Government to negotiate the end of Irish neutrality and allow navel bases within its borders, Churchill’s carrot being the prospect of a United Ireland.
The Blitz has hit, bombs fall, a thousand fires burn throughout Belfast, streets are filled with bricks and belongings from the houses lying in ruins but worst of all are the dead and injured being pulled from the rubble. 20,000 are homeless and people are fleeing to safety on the Cave Hill, Black Mountain and the Holywood Hills and Martha has volunteered to help families identify bodies lying in rows of coffins in St. George’s Market.
Above all, the heart of the story surrounds the girls singing group, The Golden Sisters, part of Mr. Goldstein’s ‘Barnstormers’, a troupe of local entertainers who entertain the public and the troops, all the sisters can sing and sing well and their progress to the top is swift despite their individual traumas.
This book is well written and well researched – that’s because the story is based on Alrene Hughes own family, her grandmother, her mother and her aunts and how they sang they way through those war years, their adventures woven through the trauma of survival when there is no money, no food and no shelter from the bombs. Roll on the third book.
Review by Anne Hailes