Christmas at Liberty's

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 09 Apr 2019

Member Reviews

Christmas at Liberty’s is the first in a new series from Fiona Ford and it follows the fortunes of a special group of women who work at the world famous Liberty’s store in London. The book shows us how even in wartime there can be magic at Christmas as unique and solid bonds and friendships are formed which will be tested to the max but the question remains can the women weather the storms that are about to come their way? Can Liberty’s work that magic it is renowned for?

I was really impressed by this book from Fiona Ford, I found myself instantly engaged with the characters right from their introduction as each person was so varied and each had their own issues and personal problems they were battling through combined with also trying to keep up a positive face during the war years. The war is not the dominant factor here in this book rather it is the background to the story. The women’s personal lives are allowed to step into the spotlight and Liberty’s itself becomes a special character in its own right. That’s not to say the war is never mentioned, it is and it had to have been given its affect on people’s lives and how they lived on a day to day basis. But it was refreshing to focus on the shop and its workers and to see how some fun, enjoyment, amusement and gratification could make itself known amidst the darkest and most upsetting of times.

For as long as Mary can remember she has been brought to London at Christmas to go shopping with her mother and sister. Seeing the Christmas window display at Liberty’s is something she looks forward to every year. This wondrous store is a place where dreams come true, where things sparkle and glisten and rolls of patterned fabric adorn its shelves. Charm and enchantment abound within each department and to Mary it is a unique place which will always hold a special place in her heart.

Fast forward many years later and it is 1941 and Mary Holmes–Fotherington is a vastly different person from the young girl who once longed for the visit to Liberty’s. She steps off a train in London about to embark on a new life through no choice of her own but through circumstance. This new situation has been forced upon her and she has no choice but to grab any new opportunity that will come her way, for if she doesn’t she fears she may end up in the gutter. With no one to support her and estranged from her family Mary must commence the next step in her life journey. But little does she realise despite such heartbreak that she is attempting to keep hidden that this next phase might just be the very tonic she needed.

What a change to see a character who had come from a well off background and one who had led a life of privilege to now being someone who has to search for a room to stay in and then find a job. It was a total 360 from most main characters in the saga genre. Mary had been in the ATS, the women’s branch of the army, but the reader is not immediately privy to the reasons for her new situation. I could guess at certain things but it wasn’t until the author choose to reveal the final piece of the puzzle did things become fully clear to me and that’s the way it should be. Mary was brave person to go from a life of comfort and support to having nothing and no communication from her family. She knew whatever her next step, whatever life choice she made then that would determine how things would play out for her. She had guts and determination and I loved how timer and time again she stood up for herself when faced with things she felt were unjust.

Mary was innovative but at the same time not afraid to admit that she wasn’t perfect and she had many faults. Even though she may have been down at heel so to speak she embraced the little things and the hands of friendship that were being offered. She pushed her pride to one side and she became a strong leading character around which various other characters and storylines flowed out from. I thoroughly enjoyed reading of her transformation and how when given the chance to interview for Liberty’s she went for it despite knowing nothing about sewing or fabrics. She was innovative and a quick learner and with the special group of women at Liberty’s there was no way there were going to let Mary fall again. She had endured and suffered too much that surely she deserved some happiness?

As Mary finds a room to rent from loveable landlady Dot, who quickly became the mother figure of the story, she meets Alice who is pregnant and works part time at Liberty’s. Her husband Luke is a flying officer in the army and she pines for him although she knows he is doing his bit for his country. Thanks to Alice, Mary soon has a job at Liberty’s and a steep learning curve ensues as well many adventures and ups and downs. Alice wasn’t my favourite character but I still admired how she was battling through and remaining positive that Luke would come home safely to see his family and new baby.

But what I really loved about this book was the sense of friendship and family that the author built and built upon the further I progressed through the story. It was like everyone joined together as one big family unit and although the shop couldn’t have been the same as the pre war years given all the rationing they all still made the best of whatever was presented to them. A visit to Liberty’s was made to be a memorable and significant experience and the girls made sure of this at every available opportunity. Behind the shop floor there was lots of other goings on which kept me riveted and rapidly turning the pages and it made me feel as if I had turned back in time and even though I have never been to Liberty’s it really did come alive and the women’s stories leaped off the pages as they were interesting, well thought out and compassionate.

Life for Mary wasn’t all plain sailing and her boss Mabel Matravers certainly didn’t give her an easy time but I loved how Mary wasn’t afraid and wouldn’t give into bullying and threats. Mabel was a horrible character and even at the very end I still felt no sympathy for her, she deserved everything she got. Her thoughtless conniving actions led to a desperate heartache for another character and I could see no way of forgiving her. Mabel ruled with an iron fist and as she discovers things about Mary she lords it over her knowing she can reveal something with a few little words which would see the new life Mary had created for herself come tumbling down very quickly. I hoped that Rose who worked in the office and Flo, the fabric and haberdashery supervisor, would see through Mabel and the way she was treating Mary and be supportive to their new colleague and friend. For that is what the trio became alongside Dot a group of people who share one common bond, that of working in Liberty’s.

Through this friendships are solidified, a community spirit is evoked and they turn into one big family with a ring of friendship at its very core and it was just so heart-warming to see this. It never felt forced, over the top or fake, instead it was natural and probably very much common at the time. With so many men away fighting the women stepped up to fill their roles and in doing so they created their own little band of support where happiness, family and love where at its centre. That’s not to say life was a bed of roses, it was far from it as the storyline surrounding Mabel proved. It turned me against her even more and my dislike for her only intensified. I don’t think she could justify her actions at all.

There are many messages to be gleamed from this book and the author conveys them all so well. Life is fragile and we should make the most of it, more so than ever during the war years. Love, compassion, friendship and family will see you though the hardest of times. Fun and laughter should always have a place in your life and this is demonstrated as the women prepare for a special wedding? But whose is it? Is there unexpected love around the corner for more than one person? Can Liberty’s retain that sense of pride and class it has maintained for so many years or will the war prove too costly and destructive? Can Mary despite being so loyal, selfless and loving find the one piece of the puzzle that will quell her deeply hidden distress and hurt? One thing is for sure working under the roof of an extraordinary shop with an equally as extraordinary group of women all these questions may very well find answers. But to find out you must pick up this wonderful read which highlights people who believe in each other, who take care of each other and who stand up for each other.

Christmas at Liberty’s was a fabulous and marvellous addition to my festive reading this year and I can’t wait for the next instalment which sees The Liberty Girls arrive in May 2019.
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Here’s a promising historic saga. Christmas at Liberty’s is the first installment of the series. Don’t be fooled by the title though, the Christmas part is rather minimal and sort of really happens near the end of the book. I believe another title would be better fitting for this great portrait of strong, independent women from the 1940s in the exciting decor of London’s famous shop, Liberty.  I almost read it in one sitting thanks to a nicely flowing writing style and colourful characters. I enjoyed this poignant story about headstrong women thrown in the midst of adversity.

From a modern reader’s perspective, I can but feel appalled at the way society treated women back then. Even though it’s rather easy to guess Mary’s dark secret, it’s mind-boggling to see how much progress has been made in little under 80 years regarding morals and expectations for women’s freedom/socially respectable attitude. The way Mary is being threatened and bullied is revolting and that makes her even more relatable and endearing to the reader.

All in all, I really enjoyed the novel and would very much like to read the next one to see what’s in store for the Liberty Girls.
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Excellent book!  Loved the characters and it was a great storyline.  I would highly recommend this book.
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A wonderful book, full of emotions, heartwarming and moving at the same time.
This is a real page turner, once I started I couldn't put it down as I was involved in the twists and turns of the plot.
The cast of characters is well written and they are realistic and you cannot help rooting for them.
I loved Mary, Dot, Rose, and Alice; I loved their spirit, they braveness and their capacity to hope in a better future.
This is the first book I read by this author and won't surely be last one.
I look forward to meeting again the Liberty girls.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to Random House UK and Netgalley for this ARC
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A heartwarming, emotional and dramatic tale of friendship, hope and courage, Christmas at Liberty’s is an uplifting and hugely enjoyable saga from Fiona Ford’s immensely gifted pen.

In 1941, the Second World War shows absolutely no signs of abating. With the threat of the enemy ever present, fear and uncertainty have become constant companions to millions of people who worry about their loved ones fighting on the front line while they keep the home fires burning back in England. While the brave men doing their duty for their country are in constant jeopardy, the danger is also very real for those on the homefront. With scores of people losing their homes, their livelihoods and even their lives, the future looks bleak and uncertain, however, even though the chips are down, courage and persistence are two qualities Londoners have in spade, which is why Mary had decided to make the capital her home.

When she had been offered her dream job as an assistant at the famous Liberty store in London, Mary had been absolutely overjoyed. As a child visiting London at Christmas time to buy presents for her family, the trip to Liberty’s had always been the highlight of her year. Mary used to be enchanted by the beauty and magic of the store and she is over the moon when she secures a position working for Liberty’s. The past couple of years have not exactly been a bed of roses for Mary. Nursing a broken heart and hiding a very painful secret, a fresh start is just what Mary needs and she hopes that this new beginning will be just the thing to help her get over a past she is desperate to forget and to start over somewhere where nobody knows anything about her.

Amidst all the beautiful prints and sumptuous surroundings, Mary quickly begins to feel as if she has finally found a place she can call home. As she begins to make friends and a new life for herself, Mary is, however, troubled by the fact that not everybody is as keen on her as some of her new friends and when her past shockingly catches up with her, again threatening everything which she has worked so hard for, will she end up having to start over somewhere else? Or has she finally found somewhere she belongs?

Fiona Ford has this marvellous gift for bringing the past to life and taking her readers back in time and she certainly does this with her latest novel, Christmas at Liberty’s. Beautifully descriptive, wonderfully compelling and mesmerizing from start to finish, Christmas at Liberty’s is a terrific saga that is absolutely impossible to put down.

With a cast of fantastic characters that leap off the pages, splendid period detail and plenty of drama and romance to keep readers on the edge of their seats, Christmas at Liberty’s is a dazzling saga set in wartime London perfect for fans of Elaine Everest, Nancy Revell and Kate Thompson.
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I would like to thank Rachel Kennedy from Penguin Random House publishers for asking me to review Christmas at Liberty's by Fiona Ford. I took one look at the cover of the book and read of the blurb and I emailed back saying 'definitely count me in!' I actually think I may have gushed on for a little bit longer than those four words but you get the idea. I was very excited. 
Christmas at Liberty's has many of my favourite themes that I look out for when choosing an historical fiction book to read. It is set in London during World War 2,  is part of a saga and has the added bonus of being set at Christmas. The cover is amazing and so beautiful it oozes magic and that is exactly what Fiona has created when writing Christmas at Liberty's. 
Upon opening the book I was transported to the shop front of Liberty's where we first find Mary. I could just feel the Christmas atmosphere and the hustle and bustle of a busy London street preparing for the season. Liberty's magic is introduced from the off and it captivates everything you dream that a Christmas department stores window should be. As I read more about Mary  and begin to understand the character you know that the magic of Liberty's is something very dear to her. Mary has fallen on hard times that includes a secret she must keep at all costs and a broken heart, as she starts to make a new beginning Liberty's plays a very important role. Mary is welcomed with open arms, though hesitant at first and she finds herself becoming part of the Liberty family.
I adore the Liberty girls they all have there own stories of hardship but all have that amazing nature that seems to be a big part of war time England were they care and put their friends and families before themselves. That nature is such an important part of that time period and Fiona has captured the very essence of it in this book. I adore Alice, she comes across very stern to start with but she has a protective side of her and has a heart of gold, which comes out as the story unfolds. I am excited to see how her story continues. 
There are always some characters that you love to hate and that is Mrs Matravers. On first meeting her I couldn't help but despise of her, then you get to now her background and a surprising twist in the story leaves you feeling sorry for her. However, poor Mary feels the full extent of her anger but it makes for a very exciting story full of twists and turns and some surprises. At times when you think, 'I know were this is going', the story goes in a different direction. At times I was on the edge of my seat.
Christmas at Liberty's is a perfect read for a cold winters night. This is the first book of a saga the next The Liberty Girls is out 16th May 2019! I for one cannot wait to meet the girls again! 
I am so glad I got to read and review this amazing book by Fiona and I hope everyone else finds is as captivating as I have. It is defiantly one I will be re-reading.
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Christmas At Liberty’s is a wonderful, magical book that I absolutely loved! I’ve always enjoyed a book that is set in a department store especially when it’s set in one as famous as Liberty’s!

The descriptions of the colourful displays and the lovely sense of togetherness that the staff had was fabulous to read about.  The staff are a wonderful team and I enjoyed reading about all their interactions with each other.  It was interesting to learn about the activities on offer for the staff outside of the shop and that they often competed in sports activities against the other big department stores around! I would have loved to have worked there too.

The author has created some truly fantastic characters in this book which I grew very fond of and was sorry to leave when the book ended.  My favourite character was Mary as I admired her bravery and determination to start afresh.  I felt very sorry for her regarding her mysterious past as I felt she was very embarrassed about it.  Her lovely relationship with her landlady Dot and fellow lodger Alice were heartwarming to read about.  I loved the descriptions of their home life together and watching Mary develop confidence in herself through them.

The story develops at a great pace that allows the reader to understand more about the characters and their lives so that they start to feel like old friends.  I was soon totally absorbed in the story and felt like I was there with them watching it all unfold.  The mystery surrounding Mary’s past was very intriguing and ensured that I kept reading to find out what had happened.

This is the first book by this author I have read and I can’t wait to read more from her.  I’m very pleased that this is the start of a new series as it means I’ll be able to visit the characters and Liberty’s again.

Huge thanks to Arrow Publishers for my copy of this book via Netgalley.  If you like absorbing, heartwarming books then you’ll love this book!
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I have a little confession to make- yes yet another one.  Although I have Fiona’s other books on my ‘to be read’ mountain, I haven’t read one yet.  Saying that though, Mrs. Ginger Book Geek has read them and she thinks that Fiona Ford is a brilliant writer.  We like pretty much the same sort of books and so I knew that I would enjoy reading ‘Christmas At Liberty’s’, even if I did have to fight Mrs. GBG for the chance to read it first.  She won.  Anyway I digress so back to the review I go.  I eagerly opened up ‘Christmas At Liberty’s’ and began to read.  Blimey oh riley, I absolutely loved it but more about that in  a bit.
I took to Mary from the moment I first met her.  I just knew that there was something about her which made her seem so vulnerable and that she deserved compassion and not condemnation.  Initially we don’t know what has caused her to be disowned from the family but as the story continues little clues giving more information about her circumstances emerge.  I am not going to give any clues as to what happened to her but needless to say it is very disturbing and I was shocked that her family treated her in such a way.  In fact if I could have jumped inside the pages of the book to go and give her family a few dozen slaps across the face with a wet fish, for how they treated Mary then I would have done.  I just wanted to give Mary a hug and assure her that she would be ok.  Mary doesn’t let her circumstances hold her back though and she is courageous enough to go to London and to seek employment there.  She literally arrives in the capital knowing nobody and with very little in the way of possessions but it doesn’t take her long to find lodgings and a job in the famous ‘Liberty’s’.  Mary is funny, she is kind, she is compassionate, she is feisty, she is independent, she is eager to please, she is brave and she is the sort of person I would love to have as a friend.  She is an example of what can be achieved when the chips are down so to speak and circumstances work against you.  What horror has Mary experienced?  Will Mary be able to make a success of her job at ‘Liberty’s’  Well for the answers to those questions and more you are just going to have to read the book for yourselves to find out as I am not going to tell you.
Oh my word, ‘Christmas At Liberty’s’ was one seriously fantastically well written book.  As soon as I started to read the book, I became entranced by the story, the period in which the story is set and the characters.  I found it nigh on impossible to put this book down and if I did have to put the book down, then I was literally counting down the time until I could pick the book back up again.  It’s safe to say that I found ‘Christmas At Liberty’s’ to be an extremely addictive read.  I usually have the attention span of a gnat but not in this case because I was so focused on the story and the characters that I didn’t realise either how quickly the time was passing or how quickly the pages were turning.  I had mixed feelings about finishing the book.  Don’t get me wrong I was pleased to finish the book to see how this instalment of the series finished but I was enjoying everything about the book so much that I just wanted the book to continue.
This book does deal with some emotive subjects but the author writes about them so movingly and with great compassion and understanding.  I found that I was so convinced by her writing that I felt myself go through the same emotions that the characters were feeling.  On more than one occasion I found myself with a lump in my throat over something I had read and I couldn’t help but smile when Mary had some good fortune.  There were also times when I wanted to jump inside the pages of the book to remonstrate with certain characters over their opinions or their treatment of others.
In short, I absolutely adored reading ‘Christmas At Liberty’s’ and I would definitely recommend it to other readers. I can also guarantee that Fiona’s other books will not be on the ‘to be read’ pile for very much longer as I fully intend to read them just as soon as I can.  I can’t wait to read more in the ‘Liberty’s’ series and fortunately I don’t have too much longer to wait because the next book in the series called ‘The Liberty Girls’ is due for release on 16th May 2019.  The score on the Ginger Book Geek board is a very well deserved 5* out of 5*.
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Wow what can I say, this is a fabulous read. Right from page one I was drawn into the characters lives. The girls from Liberty’s had plenty of ups and downs before Christmas arrived, but I felt every emotional moment with them. All I can say is roll on next May when I’ll be able to catch up with the girls again. I can’t wait.
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This is the first book in the Liberty Girls series.  It is based in the middle of WWII in war-torn London and features Mary Holmes-Fotherington who has come to London hiding a secret.  With nowhere to stay and no job, she manages to find lodgings and lands a job as an assistant in the fabric department at Liberty Store.  Mary soon discovers though that secrets usually will catch up with you…

This was my first book by this author.  I love a good wartime saga, and this was definitely one of them.  When you are first introduced to Mary, her name and manner give a big clue that she is not from the London area.  I find the way she struggles with the accents of the Londoners she meets quite amusing and also that they are initially so distrusting of an ‘outsider’!   It’s obvious Mary is hiding a big secret right from the beginning and when she arrived in London on her own, with no place to go, my heart did go out to her.

The author captures the emotions and moods of the characters so well, and the story is so well researched and planned.  I’m completely amazed how these women coped at the time, holding down jobs, homes and families whilst their husbands were away fighting, sometimes years at a time, and the writing gives this story a great big dose of reality of what our ancestors had to go through.  The introduction of the Liberty Store was breath-taking and I could just imagine how grand the store was!  The descriptions of it and the items it sold were perfect and seemed a complete contrast with the stores we have today.  The setting of the story at Christmas time was particularly poignant, considering many families weren’t together at the time, but it also makes it the perfect read for this time of year.

All in all, this was a very worthy read.  It had enough intrigue to keep you wondering what Mary’s secret was and there was an all-embracing feeling of happiness and friendship throughout.  This is an emotional story of new beginnings and fresh starts which I would definitely recommend.
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A lovely story of the will to survive and start afresh.Mary is a young girl who has been treated dreadfully but she is determined to try and start a new life.She answers an ad for lodgers little knowing that living with Dot and Alice would change her life for the better.As Mary prepares for an interview at her most favourite store Liberty's she is nervous but also sure that this could be her salvation.I have loved this book and will await the next.5*
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Really enjoyed this book. Lovely story, great characters and loved the Christmas setting. This is my first introduction to the author but I'll keep an eye out for other books from her now.
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