Ballroom dancer Alice Rooney seduces Jack Wood, a local boy from a good Tyneside family. With a little one on the way, Jack is forced in to a shotgun marriage. He vows to protect his baby daughter but his marriage is volatile from the start.
Damaged by her own dysfunctional childhood Alice shows not a scrap of affection towards little Lizzie. As Alice feels more trapped and unhappy, Lizzie becomes the focus of her frustration and anger. Lizzie’s saving grace is her loving grandmother, Mrs. Wood, who does her best to improve life for her whenever she can.
When Jack is drafted in to the Air Force at the start of WWII, Lizzie is left alone with her unstable mother and life becomes almost unbearable. It’s only when Mrs. Wood steps in and introduces Lizzie to the Madame Bella’s Academy for the theatrical arts, that Lizzie blossoms. Though still very young and innocent, will Lizzie fulfill her dream to escape her mother’s clutches and leave Newcastle behind to pursue a glittering theatrical future? And will she be safe, if she does
The Girl from the Tyne by Melody Sachs begins on the night that Jack met Alice. The author describes how Jack prepared for the ballroom dance. Before he leaves the house, he dances with his mom. It is all high spirits as the young man ventures out into the night that would later alter the course of his life. Alice was gorgeous and talented. As soon as Jack saw her on stage, he was enchanted by her beauty. He described her as a real woman unlike the girls that he had previously met. He finally gets a dance with her but quickly realizes that she is not the girl for him. However, Alice has other ideas. Jack is exactly the guy for her and she has no intention of letting him go. The night ends with the conception of Lizzie.
Alice, Jack and their daughter Lizzie have a strange, little family. Alice is one of the meanest mothers that I have ever read about. She seems to dislike Lizzie. Sometimes it appears as if she is just extremely jealous of her daughter. She didn’t want her to have friends. She hated it when her husband dotted on their little girl. From birth, Lizzie has to deal with her mother’s anger issues and jealousy. It was crazy!
I sympathized with Lizzie from the beginning and immensely disliked Alice. However, I couldn’t stop reading about her. As details of her upbringing came up, I sympathized with her a little bit but still… On the other hand, my feelings for Jack kept changing through the chapters. I liked him then hated him in equal measure. I was frustrated with how he dealt with his wife’s abuse. I know he loved his daughter and was just doing what he thought was right but it was frustrating to see him not stand up to Alice. The family members on each side were also interesting to read about. On Jack’s side, Mrs. Wood was such a lovely grandma to Lizzie. She loved her family, a fact which was evident throughout the story. Lizzie’s uncles and aunts were well portrayed in the book. On the other side, Alice’s mum, Mrs. Rooney was not very easy to like though she did have her good moments. I really liked her other daughter, Peggy though. Another key character in the book is Madame Bella. I felt like she’s is the kind of woman I would like to know(in real life). She was loud in her dressing, opinions and affection. I also liked Lizzie’s best friend, Molly and her mom, Mrs. Brown.
This book is character-driven. The author gave background stories of each character such that I felt like I knew all of them. I would roll my eyes when Alice started speaking even before she said anything but I just knew what to expect. Oh boy is what I would think whenever Mrs. Rooney showed up because I knew trouble was coming. Sometimes, I wished I could sit down with Jack and have a talk with him about standing up to Alice. Peggy made me smile each time. She was so delightful. Mrs. Wood (Lizzie’s grandma) made me wish I had known my grand folks. She is what I imagine what I think about grandmas. The characters made me feel invested in the story. This made me feel different emotions through each chapter. Most times, it was sadness and anger especially where Alice was involved. Other times, it was joy where Lizzie triumphed. It was quite a roller-coaster.
I think lovers of historical fiction or family drama will love this book. The book covers a time period of 1932 to 1950. A lot happens during the time including World War 2 which had Jack leaving his young family. The author describes the period in such a vivid manner than enabled me to understand what was going on. There were mentions of food rations, bomb shelters, air raids and descriptions of lifestyles including dressing that made the time period come alive at the background of the story. The story is harrowing yet beautiful at the same time. It is well narrated in an easy flow that helps readers follow the events through the years. I truly enjoyed reading this book and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.