In 1945 Jean Barnet put her war in a box – all her memories, achievements, and heartache. She hoped it would stay there so that she might forget and become the dutiful wife, mother and daughter a post-war world demanded. Eighteen years later, in 1963, she still hasn’t moved on. She knows she must. But in the box is Albert, the gunner she loved and Alice Bragg, the charming socialite who led the Women’s Voluntary Service in Cambridge. Will allowing herself to be open to her memories and reinvigorated by the excitement of the wartime years bring Jean the happiness she craves?
Hope is Daffodil Bright weaves the historical biography of Lady Alice Bragg, leader of the WVS and Mayor of Cambridge, with the imagined story of Jean Barnet and her family and friends in the village of Grantchester on the outskirts of Cambridge. It tells how the WVS was founded and the multitude of tasks the volunteers took on. It asks timeless questions about remembering, forgiveness, volunteering for the sake of others, censorship and self-censorship. With a vivacious cast of actual and fictitious characters, it asserts that it is never too late to take from the past the happy and the sad and move on to a brighter tomorrow.
“.. a cracking story… Jean comes across as an engaging and fascinating person who led a life that pushed the boundaries of what was possible for someone of her background and sex at the time, [a character that] achieved so much and knew some fascinating people, not least Alice Bragg and Lady Reading. The story of her [Jean’s] relationships with both Albert and her husband ring very true and captures well the tensions between her hopes, her frustrations and her sense of duty and loyalty. The book tells a good story too about the war, preparations for it, and how the WVS, despite many finding it inconceivable that women could do the arduous work that was demanded, stepped in and saved lives, offered comfort, and famously ‘tea and sympathy.’ Zoë has done a great deal of research, and it shows.”
Professor Lynne Berry C.B.E.
“A heart-warming story about the WVS, the can-do women who did so much more than make endless cups of tea, but kept the country on its feet during the Second World War. As well as a fascinating insight into the history, this is a touching story of an ordinary woman’s hopes and sorrows, and of the shadows cast by war.”
Kate Miller, author
“Zoë Jasko’s novel brings to life the essential, often uncelebrated, roles of women in wartime, and shows us how their contributions went beyond merely ‘doing their bit.’ It tells how their many kindnesses, selflessness and tireless efforts were vital in making life bearable for soldiers, evacuees and those who had lost their homes. The women’s stories are packed with historical detail: from supporting firecrews and the injured during the Norwich Blitz, to helping internees contact their families, and the everyday privations endured on the Home Front. But Zoë Jasko applies her extensive research with a very light touch to evoke the period, in a way which never slows down the narrative. This is a rare skill. A satisfying read, which also teaches us how these unsung, ordinary women served their country in remarkable ways.”
Dr Elaine Saunders, social historian
“When World War II twisted the kaleidoscope, everyone’s life was affected in unforeseeable ways. With incredible attention to historical detail, and using original source material, Zoe Jasko has written a book which captures both the essence of that time and shortly afterwards. Vignettes of interesting events and characters involving the village of Grantchester, the women of the Women’s Voluntary Service, and the soldiers of the Heavy Artillery Battery who camped there are well described and cleverly blended together to create an engaging and most enjoyable read.”
Charles Bunker – author, essayist and proprietor of the Orchard Tea Garden, Grantchester.