Wonder Girls by Catherine Jones
Published in 2012 by Simon & Schuster
My version: Library
In 1937, on the instructions of the matron, a young skivvy at a grand maternity hospital in London smuggles out an orphaned baby on one of the coldest nights of the year.
Now, in a small town in Wales, an old lady named Ceci pieces together these stories and is about to discover the surprising ways in which they link to her own. It begins with two girls in the twenties who left their small Welsh village for the Big Smoke, feeling that the world was changing and everything was possible…
This book kicks of in a London hospital in the 1930s, when 14-year-old cleaner Ceci helps a nurse take a baby away from a sick mother. Then we move forward to 2009, where the girl is now in her 80s, and finds herself unexpectedly making a new friend and slowly starts to open up about her past. Then back we go again, this time to the 1920s, as best friends Ida and Freda scandalise the locals in their small Welsh town by wearing trousers and spending every spare second swimming – and if that wasn’t bad enough, Ida plans to be the first person ever to swim the Bristol Channel.
It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did I found myself gripped. I loved the two girls, Freda and Ida, who didn’t care too much about what people thought of them, and were fiercely independent. When the two girls move to London, they start to drift apart, but their stories remain interesting and again you get an insight into the attitudes of the time – which turn out not to be that different in London to the small town in Wales where the girls came from.
We continue to get bursts of Ceci’s story in the present day, and I liked the relationship between her and her young neighbour Sarah, and I liked the fact that Ceci wasn’t portrayed as a helpless old woman.
In the main this was a sweet and sometimes charming book, and I liked the forward-thinking attitudes of the main characters. But I did find my interest waning towards the end and I struggled to keep up my levels of interest as the story started coming together. It felt repetitive at times and I do think it could have been a touch shorter to keep the reader interested. But I thought it was quite a unique book and I did like the characters and the way the book portrayed women who were before their time.