Book review: The Poppy Factory by Liz Trenow

1 Aug

poppy factory coverWith the end of the First World War, Rose is looking forward to welcoming home her beloved husband, Alfie, from the battlefields. But his return is not what Rose had expected. Traumatised by what he has seen, the Alfie who comes home is a different man to the one Rose married. As he struggles to cope with life in peacetime, Rose wrestles with temptation as the man she fell in love with seems lost forever.

Many years later, Jess returns from her final tour of Afghanistan. Haunted by nightmares from her time at the front, her longed-for homecoming is a disaster and she wonders if her life will ever be the same again. Can comfort come through her great-grandmother Rose’s diaries?

For Jess and Rose, the realities of war have terrible consequences. Can the Poppy Factory, set up to help injured soldiers, rescue them both from the heartache of war?

I was part of the cover reveal for this novel and having seen the beautiful and striking cover, was really looking forward to reading it. The Poppy Factory is the first of Liz Trenow’s books that I’ve read and I enjoyed her well researched and thought provoking story.

As I think the cover conveys well, The Poppy Factory is a story of love and loss and the impacts of war. It is a dual narrative novel that follows the fortunes of two women; Jess in the present and Rose whose story starts at the end of the First World War. In the present Jess has just returned from her final tour in Afghanistan.

I’ve read quite a few books in recent years dealing with World War One and it’s aftermath but none dealing with such a recent conflict as Afghanistan. Jess’s story definitely brought home the realities of war in our world to me and I found her experiences quite hard to read at times.

Trenow brings to light issues that are often brushed under the carpet such as post traumatic shock and the difficulties in adjusting from military to civilian life. The Poppy Factory is very sensitively written and Trenow cleverly uses the parallels between Jess’s return from Afghanistan and Rose’s husband Alfie’s  experiences following his return from France to make the reader think about what Jess going through in the present. There are clear similarities in their reactions including anger, denial and turning to alcohol to forget and Trenow illustrates the importance of  support and medical care in helping those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I found that the novel flowed more quickly once Jess discovered Rose’s diaries and I felt the historical aspect of the novel was believable and well researched. Although I had a lot of sympathy for Jess, it was Rose that I felt the stronger connection with, perhaps because her world and family came alive through her diary entries and the first person narrative seemed more personal.

I was fascinated to learn about The Poppy Factory; a charity that originated in 1922 to help disabled ex servicemen find work by making poppies for what has now become The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal. The charity is still going strong today and through this book Liz highlights the variety of the work undertaken and the importance of the charity to ex service men and women. You can find out more about The Poppy Factory and its work at: http://www.poppyfactory.org/

An engaging and thought-provoking novel.

4/5

The Poppy Factory is released in paperback and ebook formats on 28th August.

Find out more about Liz Trenow and her writing at: http://liztrenow.com/

One Response to “Book review: The Poppy Factory by Liz Trenow”

  1. Anonymous 27th January 2015 at 3:25 pm #

    I’m not sure it was “well-researched” at all.

    Trenow mentions Rose’s desire for Nylons about four times. Nylon wasn’t invented until 1935…..

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