The Teashop Girls by Elaine Everest - book review: The streets, landmarks, warmth and community spirit of this seaside corner of Kent spring to life in a compelling and moving story
A chill wind might be blowing through the small town of Ramsgate in January of 1940 but there’s always a warm welcome in the cosy Lyon’s Teashop nestling on the seafront.
For the three good friends who work as famous Nippy waitresses in the café, the war years will bring changes they could never have imagined when they grew up together on the Kent coast.
Welcome back to the warm, wonderful and nostalgic world so vividly imagined by Elaine Everest whose bestselling series, The Woolworths Girls and The Butlins Girls, have made her one of the nation’s most popular saga queens.
In this drama-packed new series, Everest brings us wartime tales of love, secrets and friendship behind the scenes of the iconic Joe Lyon’s teashops which were a familiar sight in many towns during the Thirties, Forties and Fifties.
These smart establishments were also noted for their neatly uniformed waitresses who were fondly known as ‘Nippies’ because of their speed as they moved around the workplace.
And here we meet the three close pals from the Ramsgate branch as they dig in for the hardships and dangers of war.
The Second World War has already taken a hold on the country as Rose Neville shivers on her way to work as a Lyon’s Teashop Nippy in Ramsgate, armed with a gas mask she hopes she will never need to use.
Many people are talking about a ‘phoney war’ but Rose, who lives at Sea View, her mother Flora’s warm and friendly guesthouse, can ‘feel it in her water’ that something is going to happen before too long.
Her childhood friends, the brittle and ambitious Lily who lives with her stepfather after the recent death of her mother, and Katie, whose fiancé Jack is about to be posted overseas in the navy, work alongside her and together they make a good team.
But as war starts to create havoc in Europe, Rose finds herself relying even more on her friends and her mother who has been harbouring a secret for many years.
When Captain Benjamin Hargreaves – the young army officer with steel grey eyes she met recently out on the town – walks into the teashop, Rose knows immediately that she is falling for him.
But as Lyon’s forbids courting between staff and customers, she tries to put the handsome officer out of her mind. In the increasingly dark and dangerous times, Rose fears there may be no time to waste, but is the dashing captain what he seems?
Everest’s new wartime series gets off to a cracking start as Rose, Lily and Katie discover that wartime may bring surprises, both welcome and unwelcome, but it is love, family and friendship that will see them through the darkest days.
The streets, landmarks, warmth and community spirit of this seaside corner of Kent spring to life in a compelling and moving story which has been immaculately researched by Everest and is full of the drama, romance and humour that have won her an army of fans.
(Pan, paperback, £6.99)