The Liberty Bodice by Joy M. Lilley.
Gloria Harris is born in Market Harborough in the United Kingdom, in 1922. She spends the first few years of life living with her parents and grandfather. Her siblings, an older sister and twin brothers, also share the household. The relationship between Gloria and her mother is strained much of the time.
The early days of her life are spent in considerable poverty, so much so that Gloria and her sister are sent away to Northern Ireland to be with their aunt and uncle, who are more affluent than their parents, due to the improving circumstances for the farming community in Ireland. Her aunt and uncle have a smallholding and keep a few animals and poultry that provide them with eggs and milk: the land produces enough fresh vegetables for themselves and for sale at the local market. Gloria and her sister Ann are made to work hard during this time, helping out on the farm and with the household chores. Their aunt and uncle have no children and are not particularly kind to the girls. The sisters have to stay in Ireland much longer than they had been led to believe they would, and it is several years before they come home.
On their return to Market Harborough, they discover that their brothers have both been in considerable trouble, one having made a girl pregnant and the other having stolen from his employer. Gloria realises that these circumstances were part of the reason why the girls had to stay away for so long.
At the age of sixteen Gloria is sent to France on a student exchange, where she stays in Nancy with the well-to-do family of Chantelle Valvoire, whom she befriends. Gloria has a penchant for languages and these talents are vastly enhanced during this period, when she speaks almost exclusively in French. She also loses her virginity to a dashing Frenchman and is terrified of pregnancy, but after she returns home, to her great relief, the putative pregnancy comes to an end. As a result of this experience, she vows to have nothing more to do with men until she is older. This resolve soon weakens when she meets Geoffrey, a school teacher from London whom she encounters on the journey back from France. Once home, Gloria practices her love of languages in some form or another on most days, regularly enjoying conversing with her sister’s Dutch boyfriend, who helps and encourage her linguistic achievements. He teaches French and German at the school she attended.
The Second World War begins and Gloria does her bit for the war effort by working on the land after leaving school. But she is restless, anxious to play a much more active role in fighting for her country. After hearing an appeal from the Home Office for foreign language experts to work abroad, she finds out all she can about joining the Special Operations Executive (SOE). After some considerable time, she secures an interview to join what became known as ‘Churchill’s secret army: the S.O.E. Her family are horrified at what their youngest daughter is letting herself in for and try their best to dissuade her, unsuccessfully.
After going through the rigid and arduous training to become an S.O.E. officer, she is sent into occupied France, where she is involved in a number of successful missions. Eventually she is captured by the Gestapo and sent to Fresnes prison in Paris, then on to the notorious Dachau Concentration Camp. In both places she is treated appallingly, being starved and tortured, and to avoid the likelihood of her inevitable death, she hatches a plan of escape. After doing so she has many trials and tribulations, after which she finally meets the brave Résistance leader and accomplished navigator, Sabien. He acts as guide for Gloria and some other stragglers through war-torn France and helps them back to England. Her feelings for him gradually turn from hate to love and they marry on the journey home. Sabien is subsequently summoned to the Normandy beaches to do vital Resistance tasks, and they part company until sometime later, when all hell is let loose.
5 Stars: Find Yourself Standing Alongside Gloria Harris!
If you love Women’s Contemporary Historical Romance, “The Liberty Bodice” by Joy M. Lilley has to be your next read.
As you read this well written drama, you will find yourself standing alongside Gloria Harris (main character). You will experience her childhood, unbelievable traumas, her strengths, achievements, love and sense of duty to her country, while history unfolds in worn torn Europe. Unable to put the book down, you will become more than a spectator, as your mind places your feet in her footsteps along her remarkable journey.
Born in 1922, Gloria Harris is born into a poverty-stricken family in the UK. She and her sister are sent away to Northern Ireland, where hard labor prevailed on their uncle’s small farm. Escape comes when at age sixteen, Gloria is sent to live with a prosperous family in France as an exchange student. Her many experiences only cement her love for languages.
When the Second World War begins, her horrified family can only watch as Gloria trains to become a Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Churchill’s secret army. Your heart will be torn when Gloria is captured by the “Gestapo and sent to Fresnes prison in Paris, then on to the notorious Dachau Concentration Camp.”
Let me bring you into the story at Chapter Thirteen-Our War:
…We were so pleased we would be together on our first mission. This kind of work was neither for the faint-hearted or the weak. It was winter now, and we had to be parachuted into occupied France after dark the next night.
…We had been told about the resistance network and how someone would be waiting to collect us and take us to a safe house.
…The night before we were sent overseas on our first mission, none of us slept. We were together in a small hut at army quarters near Tempsford airfield. It was a terrifying time for me; I couldn’t think straight and wondered why on earth I had joined up in the first place. I kept thinking about my family, who had tried so hard to stop me from going ahead with these plans and began to wonder if they may have been right. Then, I thought of Geoffrey and his marriage proposal. Had I made a mistake?
…I was telling myself quietly in bed and hiding under covers that I would not die; good Lord, I was far too young to die. Although none of us spoke aloud, I believed that the other two were probably feeling the same way.
…The night seemed endless, and it fleetingly crossed my mind to get up and go home. No one would notice if I crept out and disappeared into the night. We had been told the night before our mission that not all the agents of the S.O.E. had made it home. Some had died in terrible circumstances. I kept on chewing that information over and over in my head. I couldn’t contain myself any longer and turned to the others and said, “Pearl, are you awake?”
…“Yes, I am. I can’t sleep.” “Sandra, are you awake?”
…“Yes, and I don’t know what I’m doing here, really.”
…“Do you think everyone about to go overseas feels this way the night before, Pearl?” I asked.
…“I hope so; I’m sure we are not out of the ordinary in feeling this way. Do you think that many agents bottle out at this point?”
…“Yes, I do, but I wonder if they are allowed to leave so close to being taken over to the continent?” asked Sandra.
…“Well, that’s exactly what I want to do right now,” Pearl said as she threw back the bedclothes and jumped out of bed.
…“Look. It’s four in the morning. We leave at five tonight. Let’s tuck into a bottle I’ve been keeping for a time such as this. I have kept it out of sight since we started our training. I didn’t want to give the impression that I’m a drinker. I thought it would give us enough Dutch courage to keep us from abandoning our cause,” Pearl said with a wry smile.
…I fetched the glasses, and the three of us tucked into the large bottle of brandy and drank the lot between us; I had a feeling that this might happen, from the various conversations over the last weeks. We were all afraid of what we were going to encounter in occupied France; not long after the bottle had been emptied, the three of us fell asleep with considerable ease.
…The next day, around lunchtime, we had to report to the officers’ barracks for our final briefings.”
You must read this book to find out how Gloria’s summons the strength to survive, and bring some closure at the end of her journey.
After you read “The Liberty Bodice” be sure to purchase “Figs, Vines and Roses”, “One Chance Encounter”, “Strawberry Moon”, and “Times Pendulum Swings” by Joy M. Lilley.
Editorial Review (Book Marketing Global Network).
Review by Wanda Fischer: 5.0 out of 5 Stars. Well Done Historical Fiction. Reviewed in the United States on August 21, 2020.Verified Purchase. I have to begin this review by stating up front that I am a huge fan of historical fiction. “The Liberty Bodice” fits the bill. The author did tremendous research to weave historical facts into the story of Gloria and her family, bringing to life segments of pre-World War II that many people might not know.
Gloria’s family is not wealthy; in fact, they live a sort of hand-to-mouth existence in Northern Ireland. They move to England so that her dad can get a better job. Things go fine for a while until her mother, who makes extra money by taking in sewing, has twin boys. The family struggles again. Gloria and her sister are sent to live on a farm back in Ireland with their aunt and uncle. They keep thinking they’ll be going home soon, but it’s years before they go back to live with their parents and brothers. It seems their brothers, as they’ve grown, have gotten into trouble–one has stolen from his employer, the other has gotten a girl pregnant. To make matters worse, her dad has had an accident at his job.
Gloria and her sister return to England to find their dad a changed man, their brothers in their respective messes, and their mother not knowing what to do.
Enter World War II. Germany’s taking over Europe. Bombing England. Poland falls. Rumors of concentration camps and exterminations of Jewish people abound.
What Gloria does next may surprise the reader. But this author takes you on an exceptional journey of a young woman whose resolve and strength that she obviously gained through a difficult childhood through a challenging–no, horrible–journey during one of the darkest times of the world’s history.
The author develops believable, strong characters and brings them alive through her prose. She’s a skilled writer, and her research accentuates her writing perfectly. I disagreed with some of Gloria’s decisions, but that only made her more believable as a character.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction. I look forward to reading more from this author.
Paperback: 324 Pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2nd Edition (February 5, 2018)
Women’s Contemporary Historical Romance
Message from Author: Hello, my name is Joy Gerken, pen name Joy M. Lilley. I write and blog at joymlilley.blogspot.ca. I was a trained nurse all my working life, until I retired in 2015.
My first novel is ‘Figs, Vines and Roses’ a tale of love and loss at the turn of the nineteenth century.
My second novel is called ‘The Liberty Bodice’. This is a completely different genre to the first novel and follows the trials and tribulations of a young girl working for the Special Operations Executive[S.O.E.]in W.W.2.
You can also find my short story ‘Lost and Found’ published in Liphar short stories Vol 1. by Liphar Magazine.
In 2016 my novella ‘Times pendulum swings again’ was published. This tells of a hospital romance that starts well, until the truth about the surgical registrar admitting to his nurse girlfriend that he is married with two sons back home in Nepal.
I am hoping to release my fourth publication ‘Strawberry Moon’ a crime, mystery set in the Dordogne, France.
Author’s Page At Book Marketing Global Network: