I’m very pleased to be sharing my review of An Ocean Apart by Sarah Lee today. As you can see from the book cover, it’s described as Call the Midwife meets Small Island and as a fan of both, this sounded like a book for me! I’ve got a great Author Spotlight with the author coming up on Thursday so don’t miss that.
About the book
Inspired by real life stories of the Windrush Generation and her mother’s own experiences as a nurse coming to Britain from the Caribbean, Sarah Lee’s debut novel An Ocean Apart is a must for fans of Call the Midwife.
It’s 1954 and, in Barbados, Ruby Haynes spots an advertisement for young women to train as nurses for the new National Health Service in Great Britain. Her sister, Connie, takes some persuading, but soon the sisters are on their way to a new country – and a whole new world of experiences.
As they start their training in Hertfordshire, they discover England isn’t quite the promised land; for every door that’s opened to them, the sisters find many slammed in their faces. And though the girls find friendships with their fellow nurses, Connie struggles with being so far from home, and keeping secret the daughter she has left behind in search of a better life for the both of them . . .
I have to admit that I didn’t know an awful lot about the people who came to Britain to help staff the newly formed NHS in the 1950s, as well as take up other positions in other occupations where new recruits were needed. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to leave those sun-soaked islands to come to what they considered ‘the motherland’ and have to adapt to a much colder and duller climate as well as adjust to a very different way of life. Through this book, I feel that I have had an insight into what some of the Windrush Generation may have experienced.
I enjoyed getting to know Ruby and her sister Connie who came from Barbados, keen to start their nursing training along with Billie, whose home was in Jamaica. Sarah Lee portrayed them with great warmth and showed their very different personalities as they settled into their new lives. Life was not always easy for them and it both infuriated and saddened me to hear how unwelcome some people made them feel. Ruby, Connie and Billie came to Britain, as did the real people of the Windrush Generation, at the invitation of the British Government. They hoped to find new opportunities here, to make more money than they would have done at home that they could send back to support their families and wanting to make a contribution to British society. The racism and hatred they often faced was unforgiveable in my opinion.
At the heart of the book, we find friendship, dedication and perseverance. It’s a warm story of settling into a new life, learning new skills and finding love. There were some bitter-sweet moments in the book perhaps especially for Billie. An Ocean Apart is a thought-provoking story about committed and spirited women who wanted to care for others. Fans of Call the Midwife will find it a warm and engaging read.
Thanks to Chloe Davies at Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of the book for review. An Ocean Apart is available now in ebook and will be published in paperback on Thursday 29th September. You can order a copy from the Pan Macmillan website here: An Ocean Apart
About the Author
Sarah Lee has been a journalist and editor for the past twenty-five years, working across news and features and writing for regional and national newspapers, as well as commissioning for women’s true-life magazines. More recently she has focused her attention on the world of travel, creating luxury blog LiveShareTravel, and working with destinations and brands worldwide on storytelling marketing campaigns and conferences through her company, Captivate.