Book Title: Sisters at War
Author: Clare Flynn
Publication Date: 1st May 2021
Publisher: Cranbrook Press
Page Length: 314 Pages
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1940 Liverpool. The pressures of war threaten to tear apart two sisters traumatised by their father’s murder of their mother.
With her new husband, Will, a merchant seaman, deployed on dangerous Atlantic convoy missions, Hannah needs her younger sister Judith more than ever. But when Mussolini declares war on Britain, Judith's Italian sweetheart, Paolo is imprisoned as an enemy alien, and Judith's loyalties are divided.
Each sister wants only to be with the man she loves but, as the war progresses, tensions between them boil over, and they face an impossible decision.
A heart-wrenching page-turner about the everyday bravery of ordinary people during wartime. From heavily blitzed Liverpool to the terrors of the North Atlantic and the scorched plains of Australia, Sisters at War will bring tears to your eyes and joy to your heart.
Over the following days, Hannah agonised over how to tackle what she had begun to think of as ‘The Judith Situation’. She became increasingly convinced that her sister was indeed having a relationship with the young priest. Sam’s reminder that she was in loco parentis was particularly poignant. Their father had never been a good parent to them. In fact, he was everything that a father should not be – cold, violent, bullying. And their mother had been so cowed by him she had done little to protect her daughters until, when she finally woke up to the need to act, it was at the cost of her own life. It was up to Hannah now to take responsibility for her younger sister.
Hannah was completely mystified why, of all the young men available, Judith should set her sights on a man of the cloth. Hadn’t their bigoted father done enough to put her off religion for life? Charles Dawson’s zealotry, self-righteousness, his literal interpretation of the scriptures, and his conviction that women were worthless vessels there to do a man’s bidding, had destroyed Hannah’s belief in a merciful God. Her father’s god was an angry one: the bringer of fire and brimstone, of vengeance and cruelty, with a complete absence of compassion. In Hannah’s mind, religion and violence were inextricably linked. While she was prepared to believe Catholics might have a different approach, one thing she knew: they didn’t allow their priests to conduct romantic relationships.
She had to nip it in the bud. Consorting with a priest could only bring more shame and scandal on the family. Angry, Hannah made her mind up. She must speak with this priest. He needed to do the right thing.
Setting aside the heap of potatoes she had been peeling, Hannah dried her hands, grabbed her coat and hat and ran out of the house, grateful that Nance hadn’t witnessed her departure. She didn’t want anyone trying to talk her out of this.
She hurried down the hill. As she crossed Walton Vale a group of women came out of the church.
‘I need to see the priest,’ she said. ‘Where will I find him?’
‘If you’re quick, you might catch Father Edwards in the sacristy. If not, the presbytery’s round the corner. The priests’ll be there for their dinner.’
‘There’s more than one?’
‘It’s a big parish.’
Mumbling her thanks, Hannah went inside the church. She hadn’t anticipated the possibility of there being more than one priest. The one with Judith had been too far away for her to see his face clearly – but she could tell he was tall, young and of slim build.
As she entered the nave, she saw a man of the same stature, wearing a cassock, standing below the pulpit with an elderly woman. It had to be him. He was a handsome man, with fine patrician features, and long tapering fingers. The priest placed his hand on the woman’s shoulder in a final gesture and she turned and walked away down the aisle past Hannah.
Before the priest could disappear into the sacristy, Hannah called out, ‘Father, may I have a word with you, please?’
He stopped, a smile on his face. ‘I hope it’s quick. There’s a nice Lancashire hot pot waiting for me at the presbytery. I’ll be hearing confession at five o’clock if you need more time. I could get here early and see you then.’
Hannah was surprised at her own courage. ‘No. You need to talk to me now. It won’t wait. It’s about you and my sister.’
A frown creased the priest’s forehead. ‘Your sister? Do I know her? Is she sick? Father O’Donnell is doing home visits this afternoon. I could––’
‘She’s not sick. She was here with you early this morning. Right there.’ She pointed to the pew.
‘Ah, I see.’ He stretched his lips wide. ‘Judith said you wouldn’t be happy.’
‘That’s putting it mildly. I don’t imagine your bishop and the other priests here would be happy about it either.’
‘On the contrary. They’ll be delighted. They’ll do all they can to help.’
Before Hannah knew what possessed her, she had whipped her arm back and slapped his face. ‘Keep your hands off her. Don’t you know she and I have suffered enough disgrace in our family already?’
The priest put his hand up to his face but his expression was kind rather than angry. ‘I realise you’ve probably had more than enough religion in your life, Mrs Kidd. It is Mrs Kidd isn’t it? But the Catholic church holds very different beliefs from those of your late father. And if the church is bringing comfort to Judith, surely you won’t begrudge her that?’ He looked at her intently, still holding his hand against his cheek.
Hannah’s veins ran cold as the realisation seeped into her brain that she’d got the wrong end of the stick. ‘You mean? You and she? You’re not…?’ Her voice trailed away. She wanted to curl up in a tight ball.
The priest began to laugh. He had a big laugh, warm and generous. ‘I suppose I should be flattered that you might think that, but I can assure you, as a priest, I have foresworn any romantic involvements.’
Clare Flynn is the author of thirteen historical novels and a collection of short stories. A former International Marketing Director and strategic management consultant, she is now a full-time writer.
Having lived and worked in London, Paris, Brussels, Milan and Sydney, home is now on the coast, in Sussex, England, where she can watch the sea from her windows. An avid traveler, her books are often set in exotic locations.
Clare is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a member of The Society of Authors, ALLi, and the Romantic Novelists Association. When not writing, she loves to read, quilt, paint and play the piano.