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December Book Club Choice

Muddy Boots & Silk Stockings by Julia Stoneham

Cover of Muddy Boots & Silk Stockings


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For ten volunteer Land Girls assigned to a Devonshire farm, the increasing momentum of war in Europe transcends the tensions of their traditionally estranged backgrounds and drives them together to support each other in matters of love and family.
The horror and tragedy of war becomes ever more real as the women find themselves comforting each other during times of immense sorrow and pain.  But there are happy times too, with love and laughter, and the safe return of their men from the Front.

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Suggested Discussion Points:

Author Q&A

Q. I read that your mother ran a Land Army hostel in Devon and many of the characters are based on real people. Were you ever tempted to write a non-fiction book about that time rather than a novel?
Patricia Baker, Romford

A. My characters are triggered by, rather than based on, "real" people, in the same way that the story itself was triggered by my own experiences and recollections of the twelve months when my mother ran a small, Land Army hostel, rather than being a factual account of that time.

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Q. And how old were you during this period and what did you make of the Land Girls at the time?
Patricia Baker, Romford

A. I was ten years old in 1943 and was awe-struck by our Land Girls who treated me like a kid sister. I was aware of my mother\'s occasional disapproval when they misbehaved but mostly life was fun and there was a lot of laughter in that old farmhouse.


Q. Is CeeCee (and her actions) based on a real character and story?
Angela Golding, Cambridge

A. The character of 'Alice' was triggered by my mother's experiences during the Second World war when her marriage had collapsed and her prospects of employment were restricted by the fact that she had not only me but a large Springer Spaniel to consider. Another of her "jobs" involved an evacuated girls' boarding school and this suggsted to me the plot for my television film "Phoebe" which was the story of two scullery maids with strongly contrasting backgrounds.


Q. Which of the girls did you enjoy writing about the most?
Sandra Thackery, Sudbury

A. I am now working on the third and last of my Land Army novels and 'Mabel' has become my favourite character. She may be the least glamourous but the story of her shocking history and the way she maximises her limited opportunities, gradually moving towards her objectives, is shot through with her good nature and her gutsy humour.


Q. How different is Muddy Boots & Silk Stocking from the radio play The Cinderella Service on which it is based? Was it difficult to turn the play into a novel?
Sandra Whittle, Penrith

A. In the novels I am able to take the characters I created for the radio series further into and finally through to the conclusions of their stories. When I am writing I can still hear the voices of the actors, particularly of Samantha Bond, who played 'Alice', June Barry, who played 'Rose' and Bill Wallis who was 'Ferdie Vallance'.


Q. Did you meet many real Land Girls for your research?
B Morris, Torquay

A. Apart, you mean, from the real Land Girls I encountered as a child? Yes, and after the radio series went to air a lot of real Land Girls who had shared many of the experiences of my fictional ones, contacted me and my producer, confirming that we had "got it right". I researched the subject via the extensive official documentation available but the best and most lively information came from invaluable collections of letters and personal recollections of the girls themselves. I am always seeking more.


Q. What was your biggest motivation in writing this book?
Marie Banks, Exeter

A. The year I spent on that farm with those girls was one of the most influential experiences of my childhood. I like the idea of our small, chaotic world, set within the greater chaos of the Second World War. If I had to identify a motive for writing "Muddy Boots And Silk Stockings" and the two, following novels I would say they were a celebration of the way the war impinged on a particular assortment of people and how we reacted, as a group and as individuals, when it did.


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