Cover Image: The Orchard Girls

The Orchard Girls

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Member Reviews

This was a compelling, historical narrative that shone a light on the less glamourous side of the war. Focusing on the land girls, I had always imagined them as per the propaganda: shiny, happy girls that settle into their new family whilst working the land. However, Scott portrays the darker side of the working conditions, probably forever tainting my concept of this group of hard-working women.

A dual timeline, this book follows Frankie and her grandmother. In present day, Frankie has moved to a new job at the fast-paced newspaper The London Post. However, when on the first day it is revealed that the company is having a re-structure, we see the stakes are raised between the journalists. Old friends move away from Frankie and loyalties are tested, especially when it is revealed that Frankie has some quite high connections. Under pressure to get a story from her reclusive, media-distant grandmother, Frankie has to stand up against her new boss, even if it means her job is at risk.

Yet, as we start to know Violet, we realise that her relationship with Frankie has become rather distant. Through Frankie’s narrative, the reasons for this estrangement become sadly clear. Frankie and Violet have to put their differences aside as her grandmother needs her more and more. From this tentative relationship, Frankie starts to learn more about Violet’s role as a land girl, complementing the narrative switching to 1940.

I think I was more interested in the 1940 narrative, although I liked how Scott interlinked the two together, particularly in the closing chapters. Escaping the London Blitz and her mother, Violet heads down to Somerset to work the land. As a land girl, she makes close friends with her fellow workers, but they are not actually united for work reasons, but because of the farmer, who is a tyrant with chilling behaviours. Learning more about Violet’s land girl experiences, we see how the girls were mistreated – denied pay, denied rewards and targeted by other critics. It created a rather sad and isolating experience, something I had never considered before.

As I read more of this book, I found I was increasingly immersed in the story. It was clear that something bad happens on the farm but Scott takes a while to establish the circumstances first. The characters in the 1940 narrative were all rather interesting and I think it is clear that the writer has undertaken a lot of research for this period. Violet’s character is admirable as she strives to make a difference and I loved the relationship that is developed between her and Marigold.

I could not have predicted how this beautifully-written story would unfold. Although there are some obvious developments because of the historical period, I loved how readers get to learn so much about Violet’s time on the farm. It was so interesting to read and I found I grew frustrated when the narrative switched to present day, so keen was I to find out what happened next to Violet!

This is my first read from Scott and I was certainly not disappointed. It was a vivid piece of writing and definitely one of my favourite of this genre so far this year. I felt a bit empty when the story had finished and thought that more escapades could have been detailed about the war period. However, with a book that is nearly 500 pages long already, I can understand why the writer did not extend this further!

This novel is perfect for readers interested in the Second World War and who like the historical narrative broken up with present day interludes. Don’t be dissuaded by the length of the story as, once you get started, you’ll barely notice the number of pages and will consume the chapters eagerly.

With thanks to Headline Review, NetGalley and Rachel’s Random Resources for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I love discovering new authors and Nikola is certainly a new author for me.  I read the synopsis for ‘The Orchard Girls’ and it sounded like it was just the kind of historical fiction that I love to read.  As well as being a book geek I am also a history nerd with a special interest in the Second World War.  I couldn’t wait to start reading and so without further ado I grabbed a cup of tea, grabbed my Kindle and settled down for what proved to be an interesting read.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘The Orchard Girls’ but more about that in a bit.
It didn’t take me long to get into ‘The Orchard Girls’.  In fact by the time I got to the end of the first chapter, I knew that I was going to be in for a treat and then some.  I found reading ‘The Orchard Girls’ to be extremely addictive.  I would pick the book up only intending to read a chapter or two but I kept saying to myself that I would read ‘just one more chapter’ and so on and so forth.  I was so wrapped up in the story that I kept automatically turning the pages without realising just how quickly I was getting through the book.  The first time I checked I was staggered to realise that I had read a third of the book in just one go.  I found ‘The Orchard Girls’ to be an unputdownable, emotional and gripping read, which kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.
‘The Orchard Girls’ is beautifully written.  Nikola certainly knows how to grab your attention and draw you into what proves to be a compelling story.  The story is written using a dual timeline.  One timeline focuses on Frankie in 2004 and the other follows Violet, who happens to be Frankie’s estranged grandmother.  Both have had their trials and tribulations and initially it is a bit unclear as to why they are so estranged.  Both timelines interlink really well and the story flows seamlessly as a result.  I enjoyed learning more about Violet’s early years and about Frankie.  This was one of those books that really did tug on my heartstrings.  I felt as though I was part of the story that that’s thanks to Nikola’s superb storytelling.
In short, I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘The Orchard Girls’ and I would recommend it to other readers.  I will certainly be reading more of Nikola’s work in the future.  The score on the Ginger Book Geek board is a very well deserved 5* out of 5*.
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In The Orchard Girls you will find an intriguing and compelling story with dual timelines. Nikola Scott wrote both of these timelines in equally engaging but different ways and in no time at all I was hooked. In terms of picking a favourite maybe the 1940’s timeline slightly edges it for me over the 2004 timeline. I guess there was that added element of danger and tension that intrigued me just that little bit more. However I will say that the modern timeline also helped to provide an extra emotional depth. As I got to know both Frankie and the now older Violet. Seeing the connection that had once been severed begin to show signs of being tentatively rebuilt really helped to give a heartwarming edge. Even if at times things looked a little shaky with both characters having their troubles. Especially Violet with her memory loss. Unfortunately along with this memory loss, secrets from the past are brought to the surface. Secrets that were buried long ago. This hint of a mystery from the 1940’s was also a brilliant addition to the story.

The Orchard Girls had a way of immersing me fully into the characters lives. The richly detailed writing was also another sure fire way of pulling me into the story. The pacing was pretty good throughout and the transition from one timeline to the other for the most part was also done very well. It was also really interesting to read a story featuring Land Girls. I haven’t read a story focusing on them before so I found it brought out an extra fascinating side to the story.

The intriguing characters and their complicated histories really made me care about them. There were so many wonderful elements to this book including family relationships, secrets, drama and life long friendships. This all combined to create a heartwarming and at times emotional experience for me. Here is where I admit that there were a few tears shed. Which just goes to show how invested I was. I’m so happy that I decided to read this story and I’m already eager to read Nikola Scott’s next book!
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I adored Nikola Scott's Summer of Secrets when I read it a few years ago so was thrilled to discover she'd written another dual timeline book. Secrets abound in The Orchard Girls too, in a story which switches seamlessly between London in 2004 and wartime Somerset.
The novel opens in September 1940 and finds society girl Violet Etherington railing against the future that's been mapped out for her. As with many families of the time, finances are tight and so Violet's overbearing mother is determined she should marry the rich but crushingly dull Edward Forster. Violet, however, is horrified at the thought, even when her cousin, Romy suggests she might find things easier as the head of her own household. Right from the start of The Orchard Girls, it's made clear how little control women had over their lives and when Violet pleads with Romy and Duffy - Romy's half-brother -  to help her escape an awkward wedding reception to go dancing and drinking, it might usually have just been a short-term reprieve.  This is wartime, though and London is under attack as the Blitz begins to wield its heavy toll on buildings and citizens alike. Her world changes in an instant and distraught with guilt, she makes a decision which changes everything.
Through the passage of time, I think we all have a tendency to look on the past with rose-tinted glasses and that's perhaps particularly true of the Second World War years which are thought of as a period when communities pulled together and everybody did their bit for the war effort. However, the truth wasn't always quite as edifying and Violet's experiences in the Women's Land Army paint a more authentic picture than some of the images of bucolic idyll we may be more used to. The first point of note is that she can't even join up under her own name and so becomes Lily Burns instead as Duffy assists her in securing a position working on an orchard in Somerset.
Life is changing for Violet's granddaughter, Frankie is 2004 too. The newspaper she worked on has recently been taken over by the London Post where the mercurial editor-in-chief, Hugo informs new and old journalists that restructuring will be necessary and that each staff member will be subject to an evaluation process. Frankie is immediately put in a difficult situation when it becomes evident that Hugo has researched her background and is aware she is Violet Etherington's granddaughter. It quickly becomes apparent that although Violet was a stalwart figure in the young Frankie's early life, something happened which caused them to become estranged. Nevertheless, her recollections suggest that whatever occurred, they were once close and she has much to be grateful to her grandmother for. As they tentatively reunite, Frankie begins to realise that Violet is starting to lose her memory and decides to move in with her, despite still resenting her grandmother's previous actions.
I thought the similarities between the two women were cleverly woven into the storyline - both are in positions where they feel helpless but both show strength of character. Frankie has to confront Violet's memory loss and subsequently her unpredictable mood swings while also trying to cope with colleagues who resent Hugo's perceived favoritism towards her and his persistent demands that she cash in on her name and connections to write an explosive story about her well-known grandmother.
Meanwhile, the chapters set in the past are especially moving as Violet - or Lily - finally discovers what it means to have friends. The bond that forms between the Land Girls is heartwarming as they unite to endure the backbreaking work in the face of open hostility by those who consider them women of uncertain morals. The misogynistic attitudes of the period mean that many people look on them with suspicion and it's an opinion shared by their  horrible boss, Mr Hardwick, who makes their lives a misery. The Orchard Girls doesn't flinch from portraying the bleaker side of life for some Land Girls and it's an important reminder of how courageous women like this were, working to the point of exhaustion for little reward and even less respect. 
Frankie hopes that being reminded of her younger days might help to bring back the Violet she still longs for but the demands of then and now hang over them all. As the Land Girls face the full horror of the war on a terrible night that changes everything, I tore through the pages shocked by what occurs here and intrigued to see what the dramatic revelations would eventually mean for Violet and for Frankie. 
The Orchard Girls is a beautifully written, evocative novel with exceptional characterisation. The wartime chapters present a realistic, fascinating and moving portrait of the time while the modern day sections are also heartbreaking as both women gradually come to terms with Violet's dementia. Nikola Scott perceptively reflects the fear and uncertainty of such a distressing diagnosis but this is also an emotional reminder that the wartime generation had their moment too; they were once everything young people can be and more as they had to do it in the throes of wartime when they needed to be brave and resilient too. An engrossing, heartwarming and honest story about friendship and family, The Orchard Girls is an absolute treat of a novel - I loved it!
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This book was good, but I thought it was sad too, and I really don't like sad books. In my opinion, I thought there was a distinct lack of hope and joy through the whole thing and I didn't think there was enough resolution at the end. One trial after another till I was at the point of "can the author give the characters a break yet?" It was well written with vivid descriptions, it just didn't give me the happy sigh of contentment when I finished.
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Dual timeline stories always make me curious. They end up having the perfect mix of historical and contemporary elements, and I'm always interested in seeing how the author connected things.

This story is set during 2004 and 1940, following Frankie in the contemporary time and Violet during WWII. Both characters had amazing personalities and their stories were powerful in different ways. I also liked how it they connected.

I also loved the relationship between Frankie and her grandma, it wasn't an easy one and it had several problems and learning about them, allowed me to understand not just Frankie's past, but also the reasons for her actions. Not having a good relationship with a family member is not completely unexpected, actually for me, it made the story and their interactions much truthful and real.

From someone that has seen grandparents lose the control of their minds and memories, I could connect with Frankie. My grandparents also were a very important part of my childhood, although not for the same motives as with Frankie's life. Using the loss of the control of her mind was quite a good way to connect the dual timeline, and also made the plot curious. I wanted to know more. I was interested in knowing the secrets and the past of the characters, what had happened during the war.

Overall, I love how the story was written. It wasn't confusing and the connecting between the timelines made sense and I couldn't stop reading. I was curious from page one, and I wanted to know all the secrets and motivations. It was an enjoyable story that left me emotional.

[I want to thank Rachel, at Rachel’s Random Resources, and Nikola Scott for the eCopy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.]
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★★★★★ 4.5 stars (rounded up)

Oh I do so love a dual timeline tale, particularly those set during WW2, and even moreso when there is a tangible thread through which the interwoven stories move seamlessly. While it took me a while to become fully immersed within the story, before things became really interesting, once it did I was completely absorbed. THE ORCHARD GIRLS really crept up on me as I didn't know what to expect but this foray into the past through a mind that is slowly declining is so beautifully written that I was swept smoothly between the past and the present.

London and Somerset 1940: Seventeen year old Violet Etherington yearns to break free of the constraints from which her mother has her tethered. There may be a war on, but that's no reason to let social niceties slide and abandon any future prospects of a husband, for which a woman like Violet is bred. Her mother has lined up the boorishly dull Edward Forester and Violet cannot think of anything worse. So when they attend a society wedding at the Wentworth, she finds herself having to dance with Edward much to the delight of her mother. But when Edward asks if they may have a moment as he has something of importance to say, Violet panics and rushes out into the night with her cousins Romy and Duffy.

But the streets of London in September 1940 was not a safe place to be and as an air raid siren sounds, the three of them rush to find the nearest shelter. They could see the orange glow of the whole East End ablaze and still the Germans were coming back for more. But that night would be a turning point for Violet, changing her and her outlook from there on in.

In the wake of tragedy, Violet's mother decides that they are moving to Yorkshire for the remainder of the war...however long that will be. But Violet doesn't want to go to Yorkshire, so with Duffy's help she makes her escape to the country and joins the Women's Land Army, settling at Winterbourne Orchards in Somerset.

Under the pseudonym of Lily Burns, Violet accepts her new normal, which is far from the smiling posters she'd seen plastered across London, and she soon discovers the harsh reality of working under the brutal hand of overseer Mr Hardwick. The conditions in which the girls must live are near appalling, on straw beds in a cold and draughty barn in which they are locked every night. Not to mention the impossible requirements Hardwick imposes on them, changing the rules as he goes so that they never see the light at the end of the tunnel. He punishes them all for the fault of one, withholding their pay, their mail and making them work late so that they miss their days off. He threatens them that if they complain he will only make it worse for them.

The only light the women have is little 8 year old Marigold, whose family own the orchards that Hardwick oversees. She joins them daily saying little but enjoying their company and even working alongside them. The little girl is starved of love and human companionship in the wake of the death of her older brother Oliver in the battlefields. Her other brother Guy has returned after an injury invalided him out to run Winterbourne Orchards though all he does is shout at her while her mother barely notices her existence.

Then one night, the workers and the Land Girls gather for a celebration to mark the end of the harvest and a much-needed rest. But a tragedy is to come as Violet recognises the stuttering drone of enemy aircraft making their way across the skies towards them. Bonfires are doused and lights extinguished but it's too late as bombs rain down on the fields surrounding them. Will they get out of this alive?

London 2004: It's Frankie O'Brien's 28th birthday though she doesn't really celebrate them anymore. Not since her grandmother Violet Etherington and her father Harry's attempts to outdo the other in celebrations for her. And definitely not for the past ten years since she walked out of her grandmother's house in Belgravia for the last time. But today, she celebrates with her friends Con and Bea as the three of them are starting their new jobs at The London Post. Little do they know what to really expect of the shamelessly cut-throat business.

As soon as her new boss Hugo learns of her link to reclusive socialite Violet Etherington, he demands she get an interview with her as well as the dirt on one of her friends, recently the focus of a highly publicised and messy divorce. When she fails, he has Con throw something together but puts her name to it not as Frankie O'Brien...but as Francesca Etherington. It's clear from the start that Hugo wants to captialise on Frankie's link to Violet and the Etherington name.

But Frankie has bigger concerns after meeting her grandmother again after the ten year estrangement. Although their relationship is strained at best, Frankie cannot help but notice changes in her staunch and stoic grandmother when she sees flashes of panic along with a vague and vacant look on her face. But nothing prepares her for what she sees when she lets herself into Cavendish House after Violet was found wandering vaguely in the park. Notes posted everywhere as if to serve a reminder to her grandmother should she forget. Close the blinds, shoes here, put milk in fridge, one teabag only, turn off hob. And then signs on doors to various rooms - my room, bathroom. And the truth slowly dawns on Frankie. No. Not her grandmother. Not her strong capable grandmother.

Despite their strained relationship, Frankie moves back into Cavendish House. She reinstates the housekeeper her grandmother had let go for fear that she would notice the changes in her and she organises for someone to be with her at the times when Frankie is in the office. When she comes across a photo of four women identifying them as Kit, Joan, Red and Lily, Frankie recognises her grandmother immediately but not the names on the back. She tries coaxing the information out of her grandmother's lifelong friend Jools but she refuses to say anything.

And then the unthinkable happens. Hugo sees the photo and recognises its value and demands Frankie write a story on the Land Girls and her grandmother's time with them, dredging up as many secrets as she can. And if she doesn't, then Con will. But Frankie wants to protect her grandmother and honour her wishes to keep her failing mind out of the public eye. How can she do that when her job security relies on her delving into the secrets of the past and bringing them to light in the present?

But nothing will prepare Frankie for what she is about to discover...

As much as I enjoyed THE ORCHARD GIRLS, reading about the cut-throat behaviour of the media newsroom angered me on Frankie's behalf as much as Hardwick's appalling and brutal treatment of the Land Girls made my skin crawl. The injustice of both aspects made for uncomfortable reading at times but it was Violet's decline into the early stages of dementia that were the most difficult. I doubt there is a person on earth who hasn't been touched or affected by dementia and memory related frailties. It is so widespread and so completely devastating. While I didn't care for the newsroom politics and bitchiness, I found myself completely absorbed within Violet's story both in the past and the present. And what was the secret she and her friends had guarded for over six decades?

The story unfolds through Violet and Frankie's narrative in 1940 and 2004 respectively and is expertly woven together seamlessly. The rich cast of characters throughout both timelines are well developed and add a real depth to the story. There were particularly some love-to-hate characters which gave it that edge and keeps you turning the pages. Full of intrigue and historical detail, THE ORCHARD GIRLS is a gem of a book. It expertly handles the difficult subject of dementia as well as some other darker elements throughout with sensitivity.

Superbly written, THE ORCHARD GIRLS is my first time reading this author and I would put her up there with Lorna Cook and Kathleen McGurl with her cross-genre of contemporary women's fiction and historical.

I would like to thank #NikolaScott, #Netgalley, #RachelsRandomResources and #HeadlineFiction for an ARC of #TheOrchardGirls in exchange for an honest review.
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The Orchard Girls crept up on me.  I started reading without knowing what to expect, and before long I was completely hooked.  The story is told from two timelines, Somerset in 1940 and London in 2004.  1940 sees socialite Violet rebel against the constraints of her lifestyle after a quick decision has devastating repercussions for her.  Running away from home, she joins the Women’s Land Army under a pseudonym.  She happily accepts the discomfort of the role, until she sees the bigger picture and how her fellow women are suffering.
Fast forward to 2004 and we meet Frankie, Violet’s granddaughter who has been transferred to work as a journalist for a large circulation newspaper.  Frankie has been estranged from Violet for over 10 years, and their relationship is strained when they are thrown back together. Despite their damaged relationship, Frankie soon realises that Violet is having memory issues and needs help.
I found this to be a difficult read at times, I’d be surprised if there are many people who haven’t been affected by dementia and memory related frailties.  I found myself completely absorbed by this story and particularly enjoyed the slow release of the dark secret that Violet and her friends had guarded for over 60 years.  The descriptions of life in the Land Army were gritty and I found myself hoping that this was not the case for all women, seeking out a way to contribute to the war effort.
In 2005, I stopped reading newspapers and glossy magazines, the modern-day story line confirmed that I had made the right decision.  The push to get a story at the expense of Violet’s privacy was distasteful and exactly what I loathe about the mainstream media.  Scandal sells!
Following both timelines, I found a rich cast of characters, each adding real depth to the story.  Personally, I found Jools to be the stand-out character, her joie de vivre mixed with a burning desire for equality, made her quite special.  I could happily go on and on about this book, but I avoid spoilers so will draw a line here.  I must add that this is a gem of a book.  It expertly handles difficult subjects and never feels mired by the darker elements.
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London, 2004. Frankie didn't always have it easy. Growing up motherless, she was raised by her grandmother, who loved her - and betrayed her. For years, the rift between them seemed irreparable. But when their paths suddenly cross again, Frankie is shocked to realise that her grandmother is slowly losing control of her memory. There is a darkness in her past that won't stay buried - secrets going back to wartime that may have a devastating effect on Frankie's own life.

Somerset, 1940. When seventeen-year-old Violet's life is ripped apart by the London Blitz, she runs away to join the Women's Land Army. She wants nothing more than to leave her grief behind. But as well as the terror of enemy air raids, the land girls at Winterbourne Orchards face a powerful enemy closer to home. One terrible night, their courage will be put to the test - and the truth of what happened must be kept hidden, for ever . First book by this author and not the last.  This was such a good book. To be read by the beach or in the garden.  Let this story take you away for a few hours of reading bliss.
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I was excited by the blurb as I do enjoy a duel time-line novel, especially those set during WWII. I think it's the historical facts which crop up during the telling that really captures my interest. So I was delighted to find The Orchard Girls telling the story of a group of Women's Land Army girls.

The story flips between 1940 Somerset where socialite Violet has run away from her overbearing mother and joined the WLA, and modern day London where Violet's granddaughter Frankie, a journalist, is piecing together her grandmother's story for an article she does not want to write.

It took me a time to become truly immersed in the story, and I found Violet's story far more interesting than Frankie's modern day excavation of the truth. The historical details made the story for me.
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With Grateful  thanks to netgalley and  nikola Scott for an arc in return for an honest opinion. 
First time reading this author,  and was an extremely  enjoyable  experience,  the land girls were quite amazing  they turned  there hand to many jobs and all made the most of there situations, I found in this book exactly  that and held your attention  to the end can highly recommend this  lovely  book.
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Full of mystery and intrigue, a well written storyline with some lovable characters and I love the fact it's a duel timeline story,loved reading all about the land girls and the secrets and friendships they kept long after they had left
Would highly recommend
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