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In Green Pastures-bookcover

By: Rosie Simpson

In Green Pastures

Pages: 242 Ratings: 4.7
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In 1917, war rages on in Belgium and France, and German bombs fall on East London. Two sisters, Florence and Nell, living in Stratford, arrange to leave the city for the tranquillity of the North Essex countryside.

For Florence Mundy, fleeing personal demons and the imminent return of Harry, departure from London cannot come soon enough.

Nell Ashford has the safety of her five children on her mind while George is away at the Front.

In Halstead, lying peacefully in the Colne Valley, they find new challenges, friendship and pain as well as personal fulfilment. Florence discovers salvation and hard work in the newly formed Women’s Land Army while Nell takes on the role of breadwinner to her family.

But they cannot escape the consequences of the Great War and the arrival of German Prisoners of War changes the dynamics of Halstead life and Florence’s future prospects as the armistice approaches.

Rosie Simpson has a lifelong passion for words and storytelling, writing travel diaries and magazine features as a freelance journalist and teaching English to students of many nationalities. She lives in lovely rural Sussex with her husband, Tim, and dog, Flora. She has a grownup daughter and son, a granddaughter, Josephine, and a grandson, Ivor. This is her first novel.

Customer Reviews
14 reviews
14 reviews
  • Susan Haynes

    A few words about “In Green Pastures” by Rosie Simpson.

    This is a tale to warm the heart but at the same time dip into the realities of life for those who stayed at home during the First World War. Two sisters from East London, each with her own demons to overcome, step into life in a country town, far from the daily struggles of home. The author has a keen eye for the detail of country life and her descriptive prose readily draws the reader in. How the sisters blend into their new surroundings and the development of their characters provides a fascinating picture of those distant days.

    The younger sister, Florence, meets some of the young men whose lives have been affected by the War and it is their experiences that lend depth to this story. Once I reached half-way I found it impossible to put the book down. An excellent read.

  • Gregor Charles

    Opening in 1917, In Green Pastures, tells the story of Florence Mundy and her sister, Nell Ashford. Two east London sisters who, fearing for the welfare of Nell's young family after a zeppelin raid, decamp from Stratford to the bucolic sanctuary of Halstead in north Essex. Whimsical but somewhat stoic Florence has her own reasons for wanting to escape London and finds purpose and rejuvenation when she joins the newly-formed Women's Land Army.
    Through the eyes of Florence as well as her young niece, Grace, Rosie Simpson beautifully conjures this pastoral scene to life as Florence throws herself with vigour into her new life as a farm hand. She takes to the demanding farm work quickly and is soon milking, ploughing and even lambing as if she herself was born to it. Florence and Nell meet a cast of colourful and well-drawn characters during their time in Halstead and settle well, however, the war cannot be avoided, even here.
    Nell's husband, George, is away fighting, and as other soldiers begin to return home, they carry the unimaginable horrors of the Western Front indelibly with them. These hellish visions are skilfully juxtaposed with the natural beauty of the Colne Valley which are consistently and vividly evoked by Grace and Florence.
    This is a wonderful story about new beginnings and triumphs over adversity as well as the healing and transformative powers of hard work, community, love and forgiveness. It is also an interesting and well-researched document of a little-known chapter in the history of the continuing march towards female emancipation. I recommend it to all!

  • Virginia Evers

    I loved the front cover and the size of the book itself which was most unusual and, even before I got into the story, the feel of the paper and the font were so attractive. So well done, you had me hooked from the beginning.

    Although one knows the history of WW1 it was such a pleasure to read about it from a completely different perspective. Ordinary people living extraordinary lives in extraordinary times. The characters were so well drawn I almost felt I knew them personally.

    I was fascinated by the relationship between the sisters Florence and Nell. I appreciate that Nell was missing George but found it strange that she thought Andrew might have been interested in her rather than Florence and also that Mr Broyd’s attention turned her head. It must have been so difficult bringing up five children on her own and easy to lose oneself in the minutiae of daily life. Sisters do have misunderstandings and these were played out it so realistically and happily resolved.

    It was wonderful following the farm through the seasons including lambing, sowing and harvesting. What tough lives they led. The beauty of the Essex countryside was so well-drawn, I could almost smell the elderflowers.

    I was really moved by the Wilf situation. There must have been thousands of young men whose lives were destroyed by the war, not only physically but mentally. I felt for Frank who had absolutely no idea how to cope with his son, a problem for many fathers and families I imagine. It was interesting that his situation was eventually resolved by Holger ‘the enemy’ which just goes to show that situations are not always as black and white as they seem.

    I did worry that Nell had decided to take the whole family back to Stratford and although I appreciated her reasons, they would have had such a marvellous opportunity if she had taken up the offer made by their headmaster. (Just shows how involved I had become with the characters!)

    Florence was an amazing young woman and the ending was a great surprise.

  • Alice Dunseath

    With meticulous attention to detail, this book provides a refreshing insight into life during WW1 from the perspective of the women and children left at home. It is a compelling read and an uplifting tale of hope and love that brings to life one of the darkest times in recent history. An essential addition to any bookshelf!

  • Birdie Gibbs

    A great read! I really enjoyed this book with its well-developed cast of characters and engaging storyline, especially once the two sisters Nell and Flo move out of London’s East End to Halstead in Essex with Nell’s five children, while her husband is away fighting in France.
    Against the backdrop of the horrors of war, Rosie Simpson has painted a vivid portrait of village life, where neighbours pull together and families share their ups and downs. The difficult times the families experience in Halstead are interlaced with a wonderful depiction of the countryside throughout the year, mainly as seen through the eyes of Nell’s daughter, 11-year-old Gracie. The main characters blossom as the story unfolds, but among the children, this seems especially true of Gracie, who relishes her new life in the country but writes a diary for the father she misses so much.
    It is much interesting and well-researched detail about farm life in 1917 as Flo joins the Women’s Land Army and goes to work on a nearby farm. She develops from a city girl to an indispensable farmhand, revelling in the day-to-day physical labour, whether learning about lambing or how to drive the horse-drawn plough from the farmer, Frank Davis.
    Most poignant of all is the return from war of Frank’s injured son Wilf. Traumatised by the incident that appears to have cost him his sight, Wilf refuses to engage with anyone, even his parents. Superb, sensitive writing gives insight into his distraught state of mind, then gradual acceptance of his injuries and also of Flo and a German POW, Fritzy, doing ‘his’ work on the farm alongside his father.

  • Carolyn Shaw

    In Green Pastures is the enjoyable story of a delightful cast of characters dealing with the pains and uncertainties, but also the pleasures, of life a hundred years ago as the First World War, drew towards its end. It is a life fraught with difficulties and deprivations which are scarcely imaginable by today's readers. The pace and settings, coloured by Rosie Simpson's research as well as her personal experience of rural life, take us on a journey which always feels authentic. We are immersed in the life of the farm and its interaction with the wider community and the story emerges easily and naturally from the characters' actions as they reveal their defining characteristics. Containing the story within the framework of one year gives it the tautness to be driven forward energetically and at the end, the reader wants to know what happens in the future lives of Florence and Grace in particular.

    This is a fine achievement by Rosie Simpson. There is no doubt she has inherited the story-telling gene from Grace.

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