cover image The Orphans of Mersea House

The Orphans of Mersea House

Marty Wingate. Alcove, $27.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-63910-088-0

Wingate (Glamour Girls) takes a moving look at a group of young women as they navigate life in postwar England. Olive Kersey, about to become homeless after her mother dies, is rescued by her childhood friend, Margery Paxton, whom she hasn’t seen for 15 years. Margery, raised by her aunt and uncle in Southwold, returns from London, having inherited her uncle’s shop for kitchen goods and his house, which she decides to turn into a boarding house. She’ll run the shop—unheard of in 1957— and hire Olive as manager. In addition to being responsible for boarders, two of whom have secrets about their pasts, Margery unexpectedly becomes guardian to 11-year-old Juniper, daughter of her wartime boyfriend and his wife. The amiable Juniper, who contracted polio at age four, enchants Olive—a good thing as Olive takes on more of a mother role than Margery, who is caught up with her store. Wingate has a sure hand in detailing changing societal mores, both progressive or retrograde; in a poignant scene, Olive feels a mix of relief and guilt after revealing to friends that her brother, who died in the war, was gay, which was at that time was illegal. It adds up to a nuanced look at a makeshift family. Agent: Christina Hogrebe, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Aug.)