New Release Book Review: The Women’s Pages by Victoria Purman

Reading a Victoria Purman novel is like having my own time machine to take me back to life in Australia in the 1940s. This, the third of her novels to cover this time period, once again covers many important issues that people, women especially, struggled with through the war years and after them.

The Women’s Pages is a story of loss and courage, of endurance and struggles and of hope for a better future for all.

I really enjoy learning about our history, about the lives of ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances. Through Tilly, a woman’s war reporter at the Sydney Morning Herald, we learn first hand of the issues facing women during and after the second world war. Woman who struggled to hold their families together, who worked long hours doing tough jobs to help the war effort, who did without for years for that same reason. Women who after the war were essentially thrown away to make room for the men returning from war. Who had tasted freedom and partial equality and who then had it taken back. I learned that despite the huge steps we’ve made in this direction, where women can do the same jobs as men, earn their own wage, make their own decisions, we really haven’t come that far at all.

I also learnt a great deal about the trade unions back when they actually had much more power than most of them do these days. The struggles that Tilly’s family and other dock workers were facing and the fight for fair pay and fair hours and how the government and the newspapers made them sound like they were the bad guys. Many barely had enough money to buy food let alone keep a family. The war made this fight all the harder especially when the soldiers returned from overseas and the fight to keep their jobs and fair pay and hours became even harder.

I had no idea about the bombing of the Japanese ship and the loss of all the prisoners of war and the story behind it. This left me in shock after reading about that one situation.

I really felt for Tilly and and her friend Mary, as well as all the other women who had no idea if their men would return from the war, and if they did, would they return as whole people or would they be changed completely from what they had been through. Tilly’s situation left me feeling heartbroken for her, especially as she watched others husbands returning. I really loved Tilly’s colleague Cooper and enjoyed the friendship they had and the support and encouragement he gave Tilly throughout was very special.

This was an emotive read and Victoria Purman has done a great job of showing us the challenges of the time. If you enjoy Australian history, you will hopefully find this to be a great book to add to your reading list.

Thanks to NetGalley, Harlequin Australia for providing me with a copy in return for an honest review.

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