Shadows in the Sky by Mary de Laszlo
Published by Robert Hale. ISBN: 978-0-7090-9948-2
It is May 1940. Clemency Franklyn, her sister Verity and their mother Nancy have left their home in London to move to Scotland. Clemency’s father, Gerald, is the commander of a battleship based in Orkney and his sister Mattie lives close-by in Wick. Wishing to be closer to her husband during the war, it seems ideal to Nancy that she and the children should move in with her sister-in-law. Clemency and Verity, however, would have preferred to remain in London, surrounded by their friends, but both are trying to make the best of their new situation. Clemency, who is almost 18 years of age, is helping man the canteen van at a nearby aerodrome and Verity, who is 16, is discovering that there are plenty of young servicemen with whom she can fall in love.
Whilst Verity is now more than happy with her life, Clemency feels she should be doing something more vital for the war effort. She had been taught to fly by her godfather, Tony, who had given Clemency and his own daughter, Dory, flying lessons. She longs to fly again, but can see little chance of this happening as women are not allowed to fly in combat.
To try to add some spark to her war work, Clemency volunteers to help at the hospital in Wick, but she still does not feel she is achieving much. Then she receives a letter from Dory, who is still living in London. Dory has heard that some women who are able to fly are being trained as ferry pilots to take medicines and supplies and even new planes from factories to airfields. Dory is intending to volunteer and Clemency immediately wishes to do the same. She becomes even more determined to do so when Wing Commander Harry Chatwin, who is billeted with the family, encourages her to join the Air Transport Auxiliary. Some time afterwards, Clemency receives another letter from Dory who has enrolled on the ATA training course and begs Clemency to leave Scotland to do the same. Clemency knows that her mother and father will never agree to her signing up with the ATA and so, with the help of her friend Alice, she devises a plan to travel to London without her family knowing. All does not go as it should, however, when Gerald arrives unexpectedly at his sister’s house early one morning, just as Clemency is about to creep out to start her journey to London………
Can Clemency persuade her father to let her join the ATA or will he forbid it and let her flying skills go to waste when they are so desperately needed. Read on to find out whether Clemency’s future lies with her commendable voluntary work in Wick or in the dangerous skies above Britain.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable page- turner of a novel. It explores an aspect of women’s role in the war I knew little about and it was fascinating to learn what these brave young women did to help the war effort. The author pulls no punches with regard to the effects of war on ordinary people and the novel is undoubtedly true-to-life in that very few are left untouched by the horrors of war.
I happily award Shadows in the Sky five red roses