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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Poppy Factory by Liz Trenow

The book was sent to me via Netgalley courtesy of the publishers Harper Collins UK. 

The story is a fascinating one. Told in two separate time frames a century apart we have similar circumstances and how one person handled it a century ago enables someone in the present context to handle a very similar problem.

Jess is a paramedic returned from a brutal tour of Afghanistan. She has trained to be one, her heart and soul is in her work and this is what she wants to do back at home as well. She did not account for the fact that despite the fact that she came home physically whole, mentally there is a big divide, a huge block that she has to overcome. She went into being a paramedic as her brother died due to someone not being there to help him when he was dying. Jess has managed countless situations and managed to save many but the one time she couldn't weighs heavily on her mind. She feels that her being "frozen" for a few minutes may have caused a person's death and this is what she cannot get over. 

Jess's mother has had a parcel of diaries of Rose her grand mother and never got around to reading them. On one of her escapes back to the comfort of home, Jess comes across them and on reading the diaries begins to see parallels between her life and that of Rose.  Rose married at 16 to Alfie who was 18 who then goes off to war.He comes back (one of the few) but loses his leg to an infection. Alfie's hearbreak, his difficulty in dealing with life, with his wife and also having to be a breadwinner drives him to drink, breaking up his family and leaving Rose in despair how to cope. 

Jess's inability to cope with her supposed failures also drives her to drink. She cannot work, gives up her job and is a wreck. She drifts through the days drunk, loses the love of her life Nate who cannot cope with her drunkard state, refuses to get counselling or help of any kind and drifts further and further into an abyss. 

1922 and the setting up of the Poppy Factory to make the emblem which today signifies our respect for all the soldiers who have given up their lives so that others may live becomes the saving grace for Alfie and Rose. Fast forward a hundred years almost and will the same institution be the saving grace for Jess. Offering help for her beleaguered mind as well as the practical solution of what to do next.

Sensitively told, extremely descriptive (I particularly liked the way the 1918 to 1922 period was described wartime and post wartime Britain) and the predicament of Jess which may be commoner than one thinks with the wars that surround us today. 

Glad I got the opportunity to read this book.


  1. I really liked the first book I read by this author and this one sounds like another winner. So glad you loved it!

  2. I loved The Last Telegram, so I can't wait to read another by this author. Glad to see you enjoyed it.