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Hope is Daffodil Bright — Zoë Jasko

A heartwarming story of can-do women in the shadow of war

Classification: War, combat and military adventure fiction, Historical fiction

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Rating 1 (from 1 votes)
Rating: 4.67 out of 5 (3 customer ratings)
5 stars
67%
4 stars
33%
3 stars
0%
2 stars
0%
1 stars
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Reviews

Morag Williams
A reminder of all those who so
Review date: 23rd February 2023

I have been fortunate enough to receive a copy of @zoe.jasko book to read and review. The cover is very uplifting and springlike bringing with it that sense of hope and optimism. This wonderful book serves as a timely reminder of all those who so selflessly volunteered for the greater good when our country faced some of its darkest moments. There is much to be learned from Zoe's book - both from an historical as well as personal perspective. Highly recommended for those with an interest in the Home FrontWWII and the WVS. These stories need to be told and heard. Best of luck Zoe with your book.


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Bob Little
Decades blur in Grantchester
Review date: 28th April 2023

This work, from the pen of Zoë Jasko, is both a novel and a novel approach to telling what is, essentially, a war story about a small, neglected section of the ‘Home Front’ during the Second World War.

The story Zoë tells was prompted by inheriting, from her grandmother, a box of letters relating to those involved with the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) - especially those in and around Grantchester, a village some three miles from Cambridge which made its literary debut in Rupert Brooke’s poem, "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester", written 1912.

In his poem, Brooke asserts that “the centuries blend and blur/ In Grantchester”. In “Hope is Daffodil Bright”, it’s the decades, not the centuries, that blur – as the narrative flits coquettishly from 1963 to 1939 and back again several times. Later time shifts cover – among other things - the beginnings of the WVS movement in 1938; the ‘phoney war’ and its end in the late summer of 1940; dealing with evacuees, internees and the aftermath of the bombing attacks on Norwich and Cambridge, as well as the winding down of WVS activities at the end of the War. The entire work ends, at the beginning of a potential new chapter, in 1964. It’s worth bearing in mind that, in bravely adopting an unashamedly non-linear approach to the storytelling, Hope is Daffodil Bright can be a confusing read for the unprepared, with each of its main time periods (wartime and the early 1960s) peopled by a panoply of characters who appear seemingly from nowhere and then disappear just as rapidly - only to reappear later at time-relevant moments just as suddenly.

The book follows the stories of Lady Alice Bragg (a real person), who was head of the WVS in Cambridge in the war years and Mayor of Cambridge in the immediate post-war era, and Jean Barnet (a fictitious person) to whom Zoë allocates a major role in running the WVS activities in Grantchester – where Zoë’s grandmother had founded and run the WVS canteen used by the gun crews of the heavy anti-aircraft batteries stationed nearby.

It’s the fictitious Jean whose episodic reminiscences – prompted by a downsizing house move, scheduled for January 1964 – give shape to the book. By the time we meet her, Jean is recently widowed. In packing up her possessions, Jean’s memories of war, WVS work and a restrained but nonetheless passionate dalliance with one of the gunners she encounters are re-kindled. These memories have been well-guarded from her family and confined – some may say, repressed – in a typically British middle class way for some 20 years before Jean allows them to live again.

Those with a taste for domestic and social history should find much to cherish in this book. Similarly, those with an interest in the Home Front, from 1938 to 1946, especially in East Anglia, should find this book contains some helpful factual insights – even if they’re often attributed to fictional characters. These insights focus on a stratum of the War that’s often overlooked because it deals with daily life for ‘ordinary’ people. For this reason at least, this book deserves a wide audience.


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Mike Ruff
My own Book of the Year.
Review date: 22nd August 2023

I loved this book. It was so well researched. All the characters came alive and drew me in so that I really wanted to know what happened to them after the book ended. I knew next to nothing about these wonderful women and what they created and this book is such a worthy tribute to the work that they did. The best new book I have read in years and I cannot praise it highly enough – in fact I have already purchased three more copies to give to people I know.


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Rating: 4.67 out of 5 (3 customer ratings)

Paperback eBook Audiobook

£15.00
ISBN: 9781914151668
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Description

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.

An uplifting true story of an inspirational woman in the Second World War, it is also a well-researched story of volunteering and interesting piece in the history of Cambridge.
 

Endorsements

“.. 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.
 

Further details

 
Read more in the Cambridge Edition magazine article.

Rating: 4.67 out of 5 (3 customer ratings)
5 stars
67%
4 stars
33%
3 stars
0%
2 stars
0%
1 stars
0%

Reviews

Morag Williams
A reminder of all those who so
Review date: 23rd February 2023

I have been fortunate enough to receive a copy of @zoe.jasko book to read and review. The cover is very uplifting and springlike bringing with it that sense of hope and optimism. This wonderful book serves as a timely reminder of all those who so selflessly volunteered for the greater good when our country faced some of its darkest moments. There is much to be learned from Zoe's book - both from an historical as well as personal perspective. Highly recommended for those with an interest in the Home FrontWWII and the WVS. These stories need to be told and heard. Best of luck Zoe with your book.


please wait
Bob Little
Decades blur in Grantchester
Review date: 28th April 2023

This work, from the pen of Zoë Jasko, is both a novel and a novel approach to telling what is, essentially, a war story about a small, neglected section of the ‘Home Front’ during the Second World War.

The story Zoë tells was prompted by inheriting, from her grandmother, a box of letters relating to those involved with the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) - especially those in and around Grantchester, a village some three miles from Cambridge which made its literary debut in Rupert Brooke’s poem, "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester", written 1912.

In his poem, Brooke asserts that “the centuries blend and blur/ In Grantchester”. In “Hope is Daffodil Bright”, it’s the decades, not the centuries, that blur – as the narrative flits coquettishly from 1963 to 1939 and back again several times. Later time shifts cover – among other things - the beginnings of the WVS movement in 1938; the ‘phoney war’ and its end in the late summer of 1940; dealing with evacuees, internees and the aftermath of the bombing attacks on Norwich and Cambridge, as well as the winding down of WVS activities at the end of the War. The entire work ends, at the beginning of a potential new chapter, in 1964. It’s worth bearing in mind that, in bravely adopting an unashamedly non-linear approach to the storytelling, Hope is Daffodil Bright can be a confusing read for the unprepared, with each of its main time periods (wartime and the early 1960s) peopled by a panoply of characters who appear seemingly from nowhere and then disappear just as rapidly - only to reappear later at time-relevant moments just as suddenly.

The book follows the stories of Lady Alice Bragg (a real person), who was head of the WVS in Cambridge in the war years and Mayor of Cambridge in the immediate post-war era, and Jean Barnet (a fictitious person) to whom Zoë allocates a major role in running the WVS activities in Grantchester – where Zoë’s grandmother had founded and run the WVS canteen used by the gun crews of the heavy anti-aircraft batteries stationed nearby.

It’s the fictitious Jean whose episodic reminiscences – prompted by a downsizing house move, scheduled for January 1964 – give shape to the book. By the time we meet her, Jean is recently widowed. In packing up her possessions, Jean’s memories of war, WVS work and a restrained but nonetheless passionate dalliance with one of the gunners she encounters are re-kindled. These memories have been well-guarded from her family and confined – some may say, repressed – in a typically British middle class way for some 20 years before Jean allows them to live again.

Those with a taste for domestic and social history should find much to cherish in this book. Similarly, those with an interest in the Home Front, from 1938 to 1946, especially in East Anglia, should find this book contains some helpful factual insights – even if they’re often attributed to fictional characters. These insights focus on a stratum of the War that’s often overlooked because it deals with daily life for ‘ordinary’ people. For this reason at least, this book deserves a wide audience.


Verified Purchase
please wait
Mike Ruff
My own Book of the Year.
Review date: 22nd August 2023

I loved this book. It was so well researched. All the characters came alive and drew me in so that I really wanted to know what happened to them after the book ended. I knew next to nothing about these wonderful women and what they created and this book is such a worthy tribute to the work that they did. The best new book I have read in years and I cannot praise it highly enough – in fact I have already purchased three more copies to give to people I know.


Verified Purchase
please wait