Monday, 29 January 2018

Working Class- an ingredient of Sagas.

We may be living in a classless society now, but class was once vitally important and is a favourite ingredient of the saga. A heroine is often aspiring to break out of her class and better herself. Seeking out stories of the social under-classes, the rural backwaters, the ordinary farmers and folk of the hills and the dales is fascinating. That, to me, is what history is all about, and how ordinary people cope with the difficulties of life.

Some people are victims of their class. Others thrive on it, rise above it, or slip further down the ladder, either because of marriage or fate. Some develop a chip on their shoulders or become inverted snobs. How does that affect a character? Does she know her place and is content with it? What problems does she face and how can she cope with it? All questions I ask myself as I write.

Every aspect of any particular class is ripe for fictional exploration. Most poor families needed their young to go out to work as soon as possible, no matter how bright they were. That was true in my youth in some families. Even buying them a school uniform could be beyond their ability. But everyone feels themselves above someone else, no matter how hard up they are. There’s no such thing as an amorphous mass. Every section of society has its own hierarchy. It’s not just the upper classes being snobby about the middle classes. Whether below stairs in an Edwardian household, or the skilled man or artisan, the apprentice, the labourer, the unfortunates. There are divisions within working classes. A shop keeper, carpenter, engineer etc. could be considered quite well off by a factory labourer. Street cleaners and refuse men were considered the lowest, no matter how justified their reason for being there. Class is influenced both by character and region. It is wrong to assume that the very poor are all feckless, or that they have no morals, are dirty and have coal in their baths. Moral standards and prejudices among the working classes can be fascinating

Social issues are a vital ingredient of the saga. Readers love to discover how women coped. Even domestic life was hard, doing the washing with a mangle and dolly tub, no central heating, vacuum cleaner, fridge or similar household gadget, and a privy down the yard. Perhaps some look back on hard times with a rose-tinted view, remembering when a community pulled together, didn’t need to lock their doors as they’d nothing worth stealing, and entirely trusted each other. And working for a family who consider themselves high ranking, gave Brenda the sense she was being treated as a servant, not a friend.

Brenda Stuart returns to her late husband’s home devastated by his loss only to find herself accused of bestowing favours upon the Germans. Life has been difficult for her over the war, having been held in an internment camp in France simply because of her nationality. Thankful that her son at least is safe in the care of his grandmother, she now finds that she has lost him too, and her life is in turmoil. 

Prue, her beloved sister-in-law, is also a war widow but has fallen in love with an Italian PoW who works on the family estate. Once the war ends they hope to marry but she has reckoned without the disapproval of her family, or the nation. The two friends support each other in an attempt to resolve their problems and rebuild their lives. They even try starting a business, but it does not prove easy.

Available in W H Smith and most good books shops, also online.

Amazon UK  

Amazon US


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