While many of us were reading books during the Covid-19 lockdown, one Yorkshire woman sat down and wrote one.
Edna Hunneysett, already a published author and great grandmother, challenged herself last Christmas to finish her book in time for her 80th birthday at the end of July. She found that being self-isolated for four months, helped her reach her target.
Edna lives in Middlesbrough with her husband, a retired teacher, and is looking forward to their diamond wedding anniversary next April. Marrying at 20 and having eight children, it wasn't until she turned 50 that Edna began studying for a degree. It took five years distance learning to gain a BA and she followed this by doing an MA before writing three books about mental health and the need for support.
'Greener Pastures and Brown Blazers' is is a heart-warming story of growing up in the early 1950s. It continues the semi-biographical account of the life of Emma Holmes immediately on from Edna's first novel 'Greener Beyond The Hill' which spans the first eleven years of Emma's life.
In the 1950s, when passing the eleven plus exam meant access to a grammar school, eleven-year-old Emma Holmes is thrust into the strict discipline and rigorous structured life at a convent grammar boarding school, separating her from her five siblings. She also leaves the idyllic setting of an isolated farm on the North Yorkshire moors where she has spent her childhood in a happy and carefree environment, notwithstanding the poverty and hardship and stark living conditions of life without electricity, with only access to water, a tap in the back kitchen fed from a spring in the field and with a two mile walk to the nearest village school.
Will Emma's ability to achieve academically help her overcome her lack of confidence and the scrutiny from her day girl class mates who find her broad Yorkshire accent amusing, who are amazed that she isn't a regular attendee at a local cinema, that she has never been to a swimming baths and who are curious as to what she does in the evenings.
After arriving at the boarding school, how does Emma adapt to not seeing her family for seven weeks? Will life be the same when she returns home? Will two-year-old Jacob remember her?
Over the first years, Emma strives to fit in at school only to find she no longer feels that she is comfortable when returning to her home life at holiday time. She comes to realise that she doesn't seem to fit in either place. What will her friend with whom she is bonding, make of her home situation, if she invites her for a holiday? Faith has her own issues with her mam being a single parent and no knowledge of her father. Will Emma's family be a substitute one for her?
What of her 12-year-old sister Martha with whom she is closely bonded and who didn't pass the second half of the eleven plus exam and who remains at the village school. Will their relationship be affected?
Later, Emma's father introduces Emma to smoking woodbines, alongside her sister. Martha introduces Emma to local dances and lifts on motorbikes, a stark contrast to bedtime at eight-thirty at school. How does Emma explain the nicotine stain on her finger to her questioning peer group?
Does passing the eleven plus exam improve Emma's quality of life and enable her to come through academically and become a confident sixteen-year-old? Will she sink or will she swim?
This book is a most enjoyable read and heartily recommended. Copies are available from the publishers: Chipmunkapublishing.
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