Set against the miner's strike in the early 80s, in a small Yorkshire pit town; Public Battles, Private Wars is a story of a community's fight to survive and one woman's personal journey.
Mandy and Rob married young, and had kids. They live amongst family and friends and Rob followed the rest of his family to work down the pit. Mandy has secret dreams, she wants to learn to type, she regrets her wasted schooldays, and knows that she could do more. Mrs Thatcher threatens to shut the pits, the men go on strike and Mandy uses her love of cooking to head up the soup kitchen. It's not long before she's the spokeswoman for the Action Group – travelling to London, giving talks, being interviewed by the newspapers – using her brain.
What should have brought her and Rob together seems to have pushed them further apart, and when Mandy's old school friend Ruth moves back into town, with her ex-soldier husband Dan, relationships seem to deteriorate even more.
Ruth seems to have it all. A good job, nice clothes, a great figure, money to spend, but Mandy senses that things are not all that they seem between Dan and Ruth.
Laura Wilkinson is great with words. Her fictionalised town of Fenley could be any of the small pit towns in South Yorkshire, her characters have real Northern grit, the language is spot on. This story is authentic and the setting is excellently portrayed.
I particularly enjoyed the fact that whilst Public Battles, Private Wars is set around the miner's strike, it is not wholly consumed by it. The story is about the people, especially the women, and how they coped and how they grew during the twelve months that the men were out.
A well-written, compelling story with some great characters. Public Battlers, Private Wars is a story that looks at friendships, community, love and jealousy Words – Anne Cater
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