We British people always have room in our hearts for pleasant Sunday evening dramas – especially when we’re waiting for a new series of Downton Abbey. ITV’s wartime series Home Fires focused on the fictional village of Great Paxford, exploring the contributions of the Women’s Institute during the second world war.
Great Paxford’s WI almost dissolved when snobby Joyce Cameron stepped down from her presidency after Frances Barden accused her of wrong-doing. Frances was optimistic and encouraged the other women to get involved in the war effort by fundraising, making an air raid shelter, and finding land that could be used for food production. Joyce’s ongoing feud with Frances became tedious to watch, and their rivalry was counter-productive given that they were both energetic, resourceful leaders. Luckily, they managed to patch things up when Joyce saw how well the WI had been doing in her absence.
When Joyce and Frances weren’t pointlessly plotting and scheming, we were introduced to the personal lives of the WI members: Alison the bookkeeper had some difficult decisions to make when her clients wanted her help with tax evasion; she resorted to several acts of desperation to deal with her blackmailers. Gutsy farmer Steph faced losing her farm if she didn’t adapt to the changes expected of her, so the village teacher Teresa came to her rescue by teaching her to read. Miriam couldn’t come to terms with her only son going off to war, and began lying and keeping secrets to protect him from the inevitable. Pat’s husband Bob became more and more violent as he struggled to find work as a writer, but thanks to her friends at the WI, Pat found her inner strength.
There was plenty of excitement, drama and tragedy, but it’s a shame that some of the women’s stories were rushed while others were given the chance to unravel nicely. Teresa having to hide her sexuality from everyone in the village could have been a great thread running through the series, but instead it was shoved into a single episode. Kate’s relationship with Jack could also have been spread more evenly across the series instead of being squashed into a couple of episodes.
Home Fires was a cosy series that helped viewers wind down at the end of the weekend and depicted some genuine issues facing women in the war. Although the writing was a tad bland and monotonous, the women in Great Paxford working together in times of trouble was heart-warming.