The Shopkeeper’s Daughter by Lily Baxter, who also writes under the name of Dilly Court, is set during World War II. The action starts in June 1944 whilst the novel’s protagonist, Ginnie Travis, is working in her father’s furniture shop. When her unmarried sister, Shirley, falls pregnant their parents decide to send them to stay with their aunt, Avril, who runs a small pub in Shropshire. Once there the girls quickly settle in and Ginnie meets and falls in love with an American GI, Nick Miller, who is stationed nearby. When Ginnie finds out Nick already has a fiancée back home she ends the relationship but finds it hard to forget him.
There’s a lot going on in this novel which is packed with details of everyday life and death during the war. It also gives a good comparison of the difference between life in the towns and life in the countryside where things were comparatively quieter and rationing didn’t present the same challenges. Despite the fact that Ginnie and Shirley are having an easier way of life, they still miss their parents who are in London and a closening bond develops between the sisters and Avril.
When the news arrives that their father has been killed in one of the air raids and they have to return home to look after their mother they’re sad to leave. Ginnie develops strongly as a character throughout the novel and resolves to take over the day to day running of her father’s furniture shop in order to provide for her mother, sister and the new baby. The future of the shop is uncertain, and seems under permanent threat of closure but Ginnie is determined to make a success of it and allow them all to be independent.
Although Ginnie is a strong character and the driving force for the narrative, I often found myself wishing that some of the other characters had been displayed as thoroughly. Several of them seemed shallow and superfluous even when they were helping to advance the storyline. I also wished some of the plot lines had been explored in more depth; some ideas were skimmed across and dismissed rather quickly whilst others were given a little too much time. At times I found it overly sentimental and idealistic but on the whole it was a good plot with plenty of twists and turns, even if some of them seem rather unlikely. By the end of the novel I was rooting for Ginnie and pleased that she got the kind of ending she deserved. Overall it is an easy read for a rainy weekend and, although I didn’t enjoy it much, I bet my Mum will love it.