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Sarah’s Vignettes: Extract from The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson (@wordkindling) ~ @headlinepg ~ @annecater #RandomThingsTours #BlogTour

Welcome to Sarah’s Vignettes stop on the blog tour for The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson.

I am so pleased to be taking part in this tour and thank you to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

I was sad that I couldn’t fit in a review for this book. It is exactly my kind of historical read as I gravitate towards stories set in World War 2. However, after reading the extract below, I will be reading and reviewing the book at some point. It’s powerful.

Before I share the extract with you, here is what The Child on Platform One is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

Inspired by the real-life escape of thousands of Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Europe on the Kindertransport trains to London, the new novel from the author of The Oceans Between Us Gill Thompson. For readers of The Tattooist of Auschwitz Heather Morris, The Choice Edith Eger and Lilac Girls Martha Hall Kelly.

Prague 1939. Young mother Eva has a secret from her past. When the Nazis invade, Eva knows the only way to keep her daughter Miriam safe is to send her away – even if it means never seeing her again. But when Eva is taken to a concentration camp, her secret is at risk of being exposed.

In London, Pamela volunteers to help find places for the Jewish children arrived from Europe. Befriending one unclaimed little girl, Pamela brings her home. It is only when her young son enlists in the RAF that Pamela realises how easily her own world could come crashing down.

~ Extract from The Child on Platform One ~

11

The guard’s whistle blew. Pamela put her head out of the window to check that all the children were safely on board. Further down the platform, a wailing child was being forced into a carriage by a clearly agitated mother. How awful. As the train pulled out, Pamela hurried down the corridor to check on the little girl. As she did so, she caught the mother’s eye. There was no time to call out that everything would be all right, even if she could find the words, but in that split second of contact she concentrated all her efforts on silently assuring the woman that she’d protect her child. She saw the woman turn to her companion and they put their arms round each other. She couldn’t bear to think how hard it must be for them to hand over their children. She twisted her wedding ring round her finger as she thought of Will, and silently thanked God he was safe.
She found the little girl, her face buried in her doll, sitting by the window, her small legs dangling. Opposite her was a boy of a similar age, imperturbably munching on a hunk of black bread. For a second Pamela thought of Margery Weston, who no doubt had purchased new provisions and was tucking into them heartily. How strange that some people could carry on eating even in the most extreme of circumstances. She herself certainly couldn’t manage a morsel.

She sat down carefully next to the child. Her long hair, probably carefully brushed by her mother, was frizzy where it had rubbed against the seat. Pamela longed to smooth it but didn’t want to scare her. The girl had brown frightened eyes in a white face and looked about five or six. ‘Seef por ardku?’ Pamela asked. Are you all right? Mrs Brevda had taught her well. She was quite fluent now.
The little girl nodded woefully.
‘Yak-say-manyouyesh?’ What’s your name?
‘Miriam,’ the girl whispered.
Pamela gently stroked the doll’s hair. ‘Jakka hezka panenka.’ What a pretty doll! Thank goodness she’d had all that practice with Agata. She reached out to shake the doll’s hand, just as she had with Agata’s doll in the hospital. The child gave a half-smile. Pamela gestured to her to hand the doll over, and soon they were playing hide-and-seek with it. Even the little boy joined in. By the time the train pulled to a halt an hour later, the children had started to laugh a little.
Pamela walked up the train to find out why they had stopped. They were at a station. Terezin, the sign said. She located Margery, who was gesticulating at an official with a hand that still clutched an apple. Tiny bits of the fruit’s flesh flew through the air. ‘Ah, Pamela. Perhaps you can help.’
‘I’ll try.’ Pamela stepped forward and exchanged a few sentences with the man. ‘Apparently some important papers are missing. We can’t cross into Germany without them.’
Margery blew out her cheeks. ‘Oh no. How frustrating. I was assured everything was in order.’
Pamela bit her lip. They had such a long way to go, and already there was a holdup when they’d barely started. 

Margery had no choice but to dispatch Patrick Smith back to Prague to collect the necessary papers. Pamela looked out of the window to see the black ulster coat scuttling self-importantly up the platform, ready to catch the return train. Perhaps Smith was more competent than he’d appeared.
It had been nice to be back in Prague, however briefly. Despite the pain of her accident, and the horror of Ada’s death, Pamela still had some good memories of Czechoslovakia: the warmth and kindness of the people . . . the beauty of the landscape . . . even the food had been interesting, though very different to Hampstead fare. Most of all, it was tremendous to feel she was doing something. She had her part to play: registering the children, issuing brown labels, trying to console distraught mothers. It had been a very long time since she’d felt she was genuinely helping. I feel like a Quaker again, she realised. At long last the guilt of compromise, hypocrisy even, was beginning to recede. Hugh was doing his bit at the Foreign Office; she was rescuing refugees. Finally they were working as a team.
Their train waited at Terezin for four hours, while others moved through the station past it. Four hours of checking on the children, joining in with ‘Hoppe, hoppe Reiter’, which they seemed to want to sing countless times, making sure they didn’t eat all their food, placing blankets over those who had fallen asleep, comforting those who were distressed. And all the time listening to Margery’s infuriated rants and feeling her own blood pressure rise alarmingly. By the time Patrick Smith finally returned with the vital papers, and the train jerked into action, Pamela was exhausted and frustrated. They had so much time to make up. 

The motion of the train lulled more children to sleep, and eventually Pamela felt she could relax. For the first few hours the windows were filled with mountains and forests, just as when they’d travelled through Germany for their ski trip. She’d forgotten how beautiful the country was. How could such splendour and tranquillity have spawned such a warlike people? Adolf Hitler was a powerful man, there was no doubt about that. Thank God Chamberlain was holding him off for now, but Pamela had seen the worry and fear etched on the faces of the people at the Wilson station. Occupation was a terrible thing. She hoped it would never come to that in Britain.
When they stopped at Cologne, German officers boarded the train. Pamela heard the thud of their boots as they made their way up the corridors. She looked out of the window. Nazi flags hung from each lamp post; there were black swastikas in white circles and posters of Hitler everywhere. The air crackled with tension.
Suddenly their compartment door burst open and a German officer appeared, lurching slightly in the entrance. Pamela’s mouth turned paper-dry, and she held her breath. The officer strode up to Miriam and motioned to her doll. ‘What have we here?’
Miriam held out the doll with a shaking hand. The man grabbed it and dangled it out of the window, his fingers forcing the little cloth limbs to jerk up and down. ‘Help me,’ he cried in a high-pitched voice, then laughed at his own pantomime. Miriam was frozen with terror.
The little boy shifted in his seat. Pamela put her palm on his shoulder to restrain him, then strode over to the window.
 
‘Stop it,’ she said, as vehemently as she dared. ‘You’re upsetting the children.’
She had no idea if the officer understood her words, but he’d caught her tone. He shrugged, drew the doll back in and tossed it onto Miriam’s lap. Pamela hoped he’d leave them alone after that, but instead he hauled the children’s cases down from the luggage rack. As he dropped them on the floor, one of them burst open, revealing a neat stack of clothes.
The German pulled the garments out and flung them behind him, creating an untidy pile of skirts and dresses, several made from the same material. Something caught in Pamela’s throat. Miriam’s mother must have sewn them for her. She was obviously expecting them to be apart for some time. The officer grabbed another lot of belongings from the suitcase and dropped them on the floor. There was a smashing sound.
‘I can assure you everything here is in order,’ Pamela said.
The German ignored her.
Anger tightened in a band across her chest. ‘Enough!’ she shouted. She marched up to the German, snapped the suitcase shut, and hauled it across the floor away from him. ‘What kind of man are you that you victimise defenceless children? You should be ashamed of yourself,’ she hissed, putting as much venom in her voice as she could. Even if he didn’t speak English, there was no doubt about her anger. Let him attack her if he wanted – the man in the homburg would surely come to her aid soon – but these children were terrified. They had barely anything of their own. How dare he ransack their cases? 

The German scowled. Pamela stood her ground. Where on earth was the homburg man? ‘Keep away from these children. Their things are not yours to take.’ She made a shooing gesture with her hand. ‘Get out this minute!’
The German’s eyes bulged. He aimed a kick at the suitcase, then left the compartment.
Pamela’s legs were suddenly hollow. When she knelt down quickly in front of Miriam, it was as much to stop herself falling over as to reassure the child.
‘Come on, dear,’ she said in Czech. It was almost impossible to speak, her mouth was so dry. ‘Let’s repack your suitcase.’ She started to refold the girl’s dresses and place them carefully back in the case. A photo in a broken frame had slid under the seat. She picked it up to see a smiling Jewish couple, the little girl seated between them. ‘Don’t worry,’ she told her. ‘We’ll get this mended for you when we get to England.’ The child gulped and hugged her doll tightly.
Pamela heaved the cases back into the overhead rack.
‘Will you be all right now?’
Miriam and the boy both nodded.
She strode into the next-door compartment to find the man Lord Halifax had supposedly sent to keep an eye on her still sitting behind his newspaper, his homburg intact. The pages shook slightly in his hands.
She stood in front of him, hands on hips, until he lowered his paper. His face was pale and his forehead gleamed with sweat.
‘I thought you were here to help,’ she said.
The man swallowed. ‘Er, sorry. Got engrossed.’ He wiped his palms down his trousers. ‘Are you all right?’ 

~ Where to find The Child on Platform One ~

The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson

The Child on Platform One was published in the UK by Headline Review on 1 December 2019. It can be found in all good bookshops, on Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

~ About Gill Thompson ~

Gill Thompson, author, The Child on Platform One

Gill Thompson is an English lecturer who completed an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University. Her debut novel, The Oceans Between Us, was a No. 1 digital bestseller and has been highly acclaimed. She lives with her family in West Sussex and teaches English to college students.

W: wordkindling.co.uk ~ T: @wordkindling

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Blog tour poster: The Child on Platform One by Gill Thompson
Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · fiction · Kathleen McGurl · Review Copy · Reviews

A Sarah’s Vignettes Book Review: The Stationmaster’s Daughter by Kathleen McGurl (@KathMcGurl) ~ @HQDigitalUK @HQstories ~ @rararesources #BlogTour

I am pleased to be sharing my review of The Stationmaster’s Daughter, the latest novel from author Kathleen McGurl.

My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for a space on the tour and to HQ Digital for sending me an eProof copy of the book via Netgalley (in return for my honest review).

Before I share my thoughts with you, here is what The Stationmaster’s Daughter is about.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

As the last train leaves, will life ever be the same?

Dorset 1935

Stationmaster Ted has never cared much for romance. Occupied with ensuring England’s most beautiful railway runs on time, love has always felt like a comparatively trivial matter. Yet when he meets Annie Galbraith on the 8.42 train to Lynford, he can’t help but instantly fall for her.

But soon the railway is forced to close and a terrible accident occurs within the station grounds, Ted finds his job and any hope of a relationship with Annie hanging in the balance…

Present day

Recovering from heartbreak after a disastrous marriage, Tilly decides to escape from the bustling capital and move to Dorset to stay with her dad, Ken. When Ken convinces Tilly to help with the restoration of the old railway, she discovers a diary hidden in the old ticket office. Tilly is soon swept up in Ted’s story, and the fateful accident that changed his life forever. But an encounter with an enigmatic stranger takes Tilly by surprise, and she can’t help but feel a connection with Ted’s story in the past.

~ My thoughts ~

Back in March, I discovered Kathleen McGurl’s writing for the first time with The Forgotten Secret and I fell in love with it. Kathleen writes stories that I love: contemporary and historical fiction, a mystery, characters I can easily connect with, well researched, beautifully told. Needless to say that I was really excited when I was contacted about taking part in the blog tour for The Stationmaster’s Daughter.

Kathleen McGurl knows how to tell a story and a heartbreaking one at that. The Stationmaster’s Daughter starts in the present day with Tilly Thomson at a pivotal time in her life and and her dad, Ken, coming to rescue her. The story then alternates between Tilly’s recovery and 1936 with Ted Morgan’s story, the stationmaster at Lynford station.

Oh, dear, sweet Ted. I warmed to him immediately. He is proud to be a stationmaster and lives for his work. Then he meets Annie, one of the regular passengers, and his life changes forever. I did feel for him and, on occasions, I wanted to jump into the pages to hug him.

One of the many things I liked about this story, and The Forgotten Secret, is how Kathleen McGurl intertwined the historical story with the present. Tilly’s dad volunteers for the local railway restoration society and asks Tilly to get involved, archiving the documents they find and displaying them in the railway museum at Lynford. In doing so, Tilly comes across Ted’s diary and so his story plays out part in the present day as well as in ‘real time’.

Although there were these parallels between Tilly’s and Ted’s stories, I was quite interested in the parallels between Tilly and Annie, in terms of how women were viewed in society in their respective periods.

The historical part of the story is set 4 years before World War Two, when a woman’s place was either at work whilst living with parents before she got married or in the home after she got married. Fast forward 80 years and to Tilly living with her dad after her marriage has ended and working out her way forward as a single, independent woman. The relationships that both women have with their father’s are therefore different. Annie’s father saw his daughter’s place in society for his gain whereas Tilly’s father is so loving, caring and supportive and just wants her to be happy. How times have changed for the better.

The Stationmaster’s Daughter is an escapist timeslip novel about love, tragedy and overcoming bad times for brighter futures. I’m looking forward to Kathleen McGurl’s next story.

~ Where to find The Stationmaster’s Daughter ~

The Stationmaster's Daughter book cover

The Stationmaster’s Daughter was published as a eBook by HQ Digital on 6th August 2019. You can buy it on Amazon UK and Amazon US. It is also on goodreads.

~ About Kathleen McGurl ~

Kathleen McGurl author photo

Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband. She has two sons who are now grown-up and have left home. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.

W: https://kathleenmcgurl.com/ ~ F: @KathleenMcGurl ~ T: @KathMcGurl

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Advanced Review Copy · Blog Tours · Books · Kathleen McGurl · Review Copy · Reviews

Blog Tour, Review: The Forgotten Secret by Kathleen McGurl (@KathMcGurl) @HQDigitalUK @HQstories @rararesources

I am thrilled to be sharing my review of Kathleen McGurl’s latest novel The Forgotten Secret with you today.

Thank you to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to HQ, Harper Collins for sending me an e-copy of the book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Scroll on for a taster of the book and to read my review.

~ Publisher’s Description ~

A country at war

It’s the summer of 1919 and Ellen O’Brien has her whole life ahead of her. Young, in love and leaving home for her first job, the future seems full of shining possibility. But war is brewing and before long Ellen and everyone around her are swept up by it. As Ireland is torn apart by the turmoil, Ellen finds herself facing the ultimate test of love and loyalty.

And a long-buried secret

A hundred years later and Clare Farrell has inherited a dilapidated old farmhouse in County Meath. Seizing the chance to escape her unhappy marriage she strikes out on her own for the first time, hoping the old building might also provide clues to her family’s shadowy history. As she sets out to put the place – and herself – back to rights, she stumbles across a long-forgotten hiding place, with a clue to a secret that has lain buried for decades.

For fans of Kate Morton and Gill Paul comes an unforgettable novel about two women fighting for independence.

~ My thoughts ~

I can’t believe I am only just reading Kathleen McGurl’s stories!! I am sure I say this every time I review a book by an author whose books I haven’t read before, but I can’t!

The Forgotten Secret has everything I love in a story: contemporary and historical fiction, a mystery, characters I can easily connect with, well researched, beautifully told.

The story is told as a dual time frame, set between 1919-1920 and the present day. In the historical thread, Kathleen McGurl pulls us into Ellen O’Brien’s life and the War of Irish Independence. I warmed to Ellen instantly and the love she has for her childhood sweetheart is beautiful. Ellen’s story was not easy to read at times and there were instances where I wanted to jump into the page to hug her.

In present day Ireland, we accompany Clare Farrell on her journey to independence from her broken marriage. Having inherited a run-down farmhouse from her uncle, she seizes the chance to leave her husband, Paul, and start a new life. Gosh, I hated Paul. Even after a week, he still hasn’t redeemed himself. Well done to Kathleen McGurl for a writing a character who provoked this emotion in me! I did however really like Clare and was championing her on to really make a new life for herself.

I do love it when a house throws up a mystery to be solved and the farmhouse in this story is no exception. I will say no more for the risk of spoiling the story so you will have to read The Forgotten Secret to find out more.

I love how Kathleen McGurl intertwines both women’s stories, answering questions raised in one era in the other, tying it all up nicely at the end.

I do love reading the acknowledgements at the end of a book. Often, the author will give us an insight into where the idea for the story came from. The seed for The Forgotten Secret was a small nugget of conversation which became this great story.

~ Where to find The Forgotten Secret ~

The Forgotten Secret was published as an eBook by HQ Digital, Harper Collins, in March 2019 and will be published in paperback in May 2019. It can be found at Amazon UK and on Goodreads.

~ About Kathleen McGurl ~

Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband and elderly tabby cat. She has two sons who are now grown-up and have left home. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.

~ Where to find Kathleen McGurl ~

You can find out more about Kathleen on her website https://kathleenmcgurl.com/ and connect with her on Twitter @KathMcGurl, on Facebook @KathleenMcGurl, and on Instagram @kathleenmcgurl.

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Be sure to drop by the other blogs on the tour!