High Heels & Beetle Crushers

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Jan 2020

Member Reviews

Today's young women, including those in the military, do not know the struggles their predecessors had when blazing a trail for others to follow.  When I tell my grandchildren of times I had growing up, they have a hard time believing so much could have changed in such a short period of time.  High Heels and Beetle Crushers tells the life story of a young woman who fought the norm and made her own way in the British Army.  There were so few women in the Army that they were considered a novelty.  Women had to fight to be taken seriously and shown respect.  Jackie Skingley has done an excellent job of giving a good account of her experiences and how her efforts changed the way she was treated.  A really good memoir that should be required reading for young women today.
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Rating: 4.0/5.0

Genre:
Nonfiction + Memoir

I enjoyed reading this coming of age memoir about a young girl in the 1950s and the 1960s. Jackie Skingley, the author tells us the story about her life, experience with family, love, and being a working woman. A big part of the book is about how Jackie joining the Women's Royal Army Corps has changed her destiny and life decisions.

I have never read anything before about women in the military. Reading this book was very insightful especially that it focuses on the post-war era. In an era that the world still was not as open as we are today. This memoir starts with Jackie's childhood and her relationship with her mother and grandmother, to her problem with her stepdad. The reader will get to read about all the fascinating moments and hard times in her life. For those readers who are only into fiction, this book will not be a problem at all because it reads like fiction too. So in addition to an enjoyable story, you will also get some interesting facts and information about that era. The only drawback I could find with the book is that despite being in the Cold War era, the Cold War aspect did not have a big impact on the story. Yes, it was in the background, but I was hoping to read more about how it has affected people then. 

High Heels & Beetle Crushers is a solid memoir and deserves 4 great stars out of 5.0.

Many thanks to Net Galley and the publisher Chronos Books for providing me a free advanced reading copy for this honest and unbiased review.
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High Heels & Beetle Crushers: The Life, Losses and Loves of an Officer and Lady by Jackie Skingley is certainly an interesting read. It takes place in a time before I was born, and shines a light on a way of life that no longer exists, and I enjoyed learning about many things I’d not previously been aware of. 

For all this, I did find the book didn’t fulfil the promise of the book blurb. The Cold War and a society undergoing significant and rapid change were backdrops that were only infrequently referenced. Apart from a significant grey cloud in the author’s life when a loved one dies, the story is very ‘jolly hockey sticks’ and offers little of the author’s reflections about that time in history – it’s mostly a linear accounting of that time in her life.  There is just not enough substance to elevate this memoir from a pleasant read to something truly compelling.
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This is the story of Jackie Skingley, a fiercely independent women who made her way in life as a member of the Women's Royal Army Corp. The book opens with a memory of Ms. Skingley at a young age when she and her family were exposed to the realities of growing up in a country at war. It set the stage very well for the rest of the book. She loses her father at a young age, victim to the war as he fought for his country. Her mother eventually remarries to a less than ideal partner, which presented challenge as she grew up. She overcame those challenges and became a member of the Women's Royal Army Corp. As a member of this group, she formed bonds with other women from all walks of life, giving readers insights into the views of women in this time of history. Ms. Skingley also begins to venture outside of her comfort zone when it comes to her love life. Prior to joining the Women's Royal Army Corp, she was in a relationship with a man and on her way to becoming a military wife. She began having doubts that this was what she wanted and was meant for and eventually made the decision to step away. This decision opened up her eyes and heart to other opportunities, leading to even more growth. 

This was a beautiful memoir of a young woman coming of age in post-war Britain. I wish the book had include a little bit more military history details, especially regarding the Woman's Royal Army Corp. Ms. Skingley would be a good role model for other women, even those in today's society. She wasn't afraid to go outside the norm when she knew it wasn't what she was was meant for. She took risks both in her career and her love life during a time period when such risks were frowned upon by certain members of society. Her writing voice made it feel like a truly genuine piece of work without any stretching of truths as you can find in some other memoirs such as this. The pace was good and took you on the highs and lows of her life. Thank you, Ms. Skingley, for sharing your story with others.
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The Life, Losses and Loves of an Officer and Lady
Jackie Skingley
Chronos Books, 14 Dec 2019
328 pages
Memoirs
Provided by NetGalley
⭐⭐⭐⭐🌙

I know the cover is meant to be military-ish, but it simply isn’t appealing, eye-catching, or attractive. There were so many things in this book that would have made perfect cover material, that to have this is such a letdown.

The story is the life of Jackie Skingley from her childhood until she had gone through her military career. She spares herself nothing going into her family life and shining lights into all the dark corners. The loss of her father in the Great War. Her mother’s remarriage, what type of man he turns out to be, and how he blights their lives. Her determination to escape this situation and do better for herself. Which is how she ends up applying for and getting accepted as a woman officer in HM Army.

Just the application process is extensive and thorough. Out of the large group of women she applies with, only seven of them get accepted. And this is at a time when women didn’t go into combat, didn’t handle weapons. So there was no weapons training for them and no combat positions or positions where they had to handle weapons. They didn’t even have their own sports area. Yet, they were drilled extensively on military history and such as well as current events and current military functions. Diplomacy, leadership, thinking on their feet. These were all skills they had to learn as second nature. As well as whatever their specific job was for the assignment they were given at whatever base they were sent to and general military tasks which were common to all military officers on any military post.

These women had to maintain their daily uniforms as well as dress uniforms in inspection-ready condition, plus maintain a civilian wardrobe to cover social functions they were expected to attend as officers at whatever command they were assigned to. This includes suits, cocktail dresses, and evening gowns with all the accessories. This was a very social era and women had to have clothes for so many events. Jackie shares many of the styles of the times with us as her mother was very fashion-conscious and an excellent seamstress, making many of her daughter’s clothes. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book, as I really like being able to visualize the women in their gorgeous clothes. I love the styles! And Jackie’s Mom really dressed her well.

Ms. Skingley hits many emotional topics in her memoirs, proving that life is truly an experience that no one escapes from unscathed. She hits the highs and lows of sexual molestation, child abuse, emotional abuse of a spouse, death of a spouse and parent, bullying, lesbianism, death of a fiance, and loss of reputation. She also covers striving and succeeding professionally and personally. Finding and losing love and getting a second chance at love. This is a book that really covers life in so many of its various faces. And it’s fantastic! I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys memoirs, memoirs of women, stories about the time after the Great War, British military, women in the military or just a great story. Cause this reads just like a great story, which it is, in spite of being a memoir.
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This memoir offers a glimpse into another era -- one before the pill, before the sexual revolution and the feminist movement, when life in the WRAC afforded one of the few opportunities for a young woman in Great Britain to pursue adventure and a career. For Jackie Skingley, the military also represented a reprieve from a difficult family life. And yet, life in the military of the 1950s also meant adhering to gender stereotypes. After all, I doubt that men's officer training included lessons in flower arranging or make-up application! These little moments are what fascinated me the most about this book and I could not help but think of the refrain: "You've come a long way baby, and yet it's still a man's game. And keeping with that refrain, I wish there had been a little less space devoted to descriptions of the latest fashion acquisitions and a little more attention .to the Cold War context and how it affected women's experience of military life. After all the time period described is the very period in which the Cold War became dangerously close to becoming a hot one. Yet this fact seems to have had little impact on the author's experience of those times as an officer in the WRAC.

Thank you to the publisher, the author, and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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A poignant and well written memoir, interesting and gripping.
I liked the style of writing and how well the writer talks about her life.
An excellent read, highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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Jackie’s Skingley’s High Heels & Beetle Crushers is a memoir that explores her role in 1960s society. She goes from an innocent and delicate child to an independent soldier in the Women’s Royal Army Corps. These transitions are marked with insightful writing, heartwarming and witty retrospective, and a point of view and life story was destined and endlessly waiting to be told.

This book opens with a prologue where Jackie is forced into a bomb shelter. It is the middle of WWII, and Jackie’s childhood is one of innocence and lack of understanding. She does understand the war, the panic around her, and is painfully unaware that this particular day is the day that will take her father away from her. This prologue places this pivotal event as a catalyst in her life. This is the first thing we learn about her. Jackie is the daughter of a time and a war that has taken her innocence. This is a catalyst. 

Jackie, with this extensive history, grows from an innocent child, confident teen, and independent woman. It is written from a particular point of view of retrospect. Skingley, in conversation with herself, creates the cleverest witticisms that mark the innocence of the age. Many of the boys she meets have “rolled-up handkerchiefs in their pockets”, and she compares her loves to movie stars (21). The voice matures as she does, and Jackie relates an event to the later traumas of her life in a way is foreboding. The comments, often tacked to the end of chapters, take away much of the surprise, but that is life when looking back. Everything seems inevitable. Threads of small things end up influencing major events. 

There is a genuineness to this memoir because Skingley treats her faults and her triumphs with honesty and dignity. She respects the girl she was in building the women she became. 

The most important aspect of this book, to me, was the telling of the experience of the Women’s Royal Army Corps. These were women who traveled a divergent path from those that were laid out for them. In those days (never have I sounded more twenty-one then I do now), the woman’s role was still primarily in the home and in marriage. To see the contrary, to see these women in this role of power and cunning, shows the dignity of their trailblazing mentality. These are the women who could not carry weapons. They were taught the ways of finishing schools but carried their own when they truly mattered. Skingley is almost in reverent awe of the way the military has, and in sharing her story, in sharing these faults, Skingley writes a love letter to the time in her life that made her. 

Their stories are important. Their stories show a history that is unknown and underappreciated. Memoir suits this topic, because no one knows this experience with more articulately, through its highs and lows, then the women who lived it. Skingley, in sharing her story, has not only celebrated but immortalized the contributions of the women of the Women’s Royal Army Corps. Now, they shall be remembered.
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Book: High Heels and Beetle Crushers: The Losses, and Loves of an Officer and Lady 
Author: Jackie Skingley 
Rating: 5 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank the publisher, Chronos Books, for sending me an ARC. 

I went into this one completely blind. I didn’t know what it was about, but I really do enjoy this publisher, so I thought I would give it a try. I was actually very surprised at just how much I enjoyed this book. Like other books from Chronos Books, it’s written in a very easy, yet formative, writing style that allows for anyone to be able to follow the historical events without knowing anything about. Once again, I knew nothing about Women’s Royal Army Corps nor really all that much about modern military life. The way that Jackie wrote this memoir made it so easy to dive right into the story and the people. I read pretty big chunks of this book in one sitting. I just couldn’t put it down. Jackie is an amazing woman and storyteller. 

I like how Jackie brought in so many of the struggles of being a woman in the post war era. She talked about how women were just expected to marry and not want more. She wanted more and wanted a career-which she really didn’t want to give up. I like how she wasn’t afraid to put that out there. Granted, she did find love and all of that, but I like that she knew what she wanted and went after it. Plus, she opened up about her rough home life and her love for her mother, which was probably kind of difficult to put there out. She talks about how changes in her life led her to live the life she did. Everything was so detailed that made this book really not read like a memoir. It actually felt like I was reading a historical fiction. I know, I know, this is a real book, but still. Fiction readers will be able to get into her story and see a strong woman. 

I also like  how she just didn’t focus on the good times. Everyone knows that life isn’t always easy-despite what a lot of books like us to think. She brought up a lot of hurt and struggles throughout the story and how it just took time to heal. Plus, she talked about her struggles at home, which had to be very difficult to write about. I like that she lays everything out. In the middle of all of the bad times, she tells us of the bonds with her mother-remembering fondly on the clothes her mother made for her and the friendships she developed in the army. This just goes to show that ever in the worst of times there is always something to laugh about, something to bring a little bit of joy into the darkest of times.  

So, I know this review is a little bit all over the place, but I just really enjoyed this book, which comes out on January 1, 2020.
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I was asked to read this memoir by Jackie herself after she followed me on twitter. I’ve come to know her as a kind woman who’s passionate about her book so while I’ve been excited about reading it, I’ve also been apprehensive as I will only give honest reviews and was hoping it would be as delightful as the woman herself. I needn’t have worried. High Heels and Beetle Crushers is a charming and fascinating memoir filled with entertaining and heart-rending stories. 

It begins with an air raid siren blasting in 1944 when Jackie is just three years old. Seeing an air raid through the eyes of a young child felt particularly poignant. We also learn that this particular night her father, Flight Lieutenant Jack Skingley, is killed along with thousands of others from his regiment during an air raid in Germany. From there we follow her through childhood, adolescence and becoming a young woman determined to spread her wings and find adventure and independence. We watch her discover boys, begin her first relationship, fall head over heels in love, move out for her first job and settle on a career that she loves. 

Jackie has plenty of colourful anecdotes to share alongside the more emotional stories. She’s been through a lot and there were many times I was fighting tears as my heart broke for what she went through. But what came through time and again is her indomitable strength and resilience in the face of everything. Her tenderness for most of those recalled in the book is in every word she writes, as does her distaste for those who, quite frankly, deserve it. 

I was born in 1979 and the world has changed dramatically in the time I’ve been alive. There’s things I remember being normal that are alien to my children, so it was interesting to read a memoir where even more has changed in that person’s lifetime and be reminded how recent it was that homosexuality was made legal, sexual attitudes changed, how differently women were viewed and the less options they had. For instance, she talks about how her mother had to put up with her lot in life when she found herself in an abusive marriage due to the social stigma of divorce. As someone who’s divorced an abusive husband this made me once again incredibly thankful it was in a time when there isn’t that stigma and people encourage you to become free of abusive relationships. 

I would highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a compelling, entertaining and quick read. It will make you laugh, make you angry, make you fight tears, but it will also teach you things and make you think. I would also recommend it for fans of things like Call The Midwife or Land Girls. I don’t read many memoirs but I’m glad I read this one and can’t wait for the follow up. 

Thank you to Jackie Skingley and John Hurt Publishing Ltd for the e-Book ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A heart wrenching memoir. Jackie's early  childhood was not a happy one after the death of her father in the war. It was a great struggle and parts of it very sad. 
There were limited career choices for women in the fifties and early sixties in Britain. She wants more in life. Giving us a peak into the Royal Army Corps and what life was like in the military and as an extended family of military. 
I look forward to more Books by this author.  

Thank you to the publisher, Author,  and NetGalley for the eARC
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This memoir takes us from Jackie’s early childhood recollections of the war, to happy times spent with her great aunt and uncle, not so happy times with her stepdad, and then onto her new life in the Womens Royal Army Corps in the 1960’s. Growing up surrounded by military towns, Jackie’s life had plenty of military connections before she decided that this direction might be her chance to gain independence and adventure. 

Jackie certainly has a story to tell of a fascinating era where women were making their mark, but as we follow her journey, this book becomes a heartfelt memoir of personal loss too. It was a privilege to witness the ups and downs of her time at officer cadet training, her visits to military bases in Germany and the roles she went on to have as an officer, even if some of the military terms and references were a little lost on me. She also shares her blossoming romances along the way and not surprisingly, her young men were all in the military too and her descriptions of the balls and her dresses, lovingly made by her mother, were vibrantly brought to life. She paints a great picture of the camaraderie of military life, the socialising and the rule breaking too, giving a great insight to what it felt like to belong to the extended military family.

This is a beautifully written, honest memoir, where hard work, heartache and happiness all play a part, and it left me keen to read more.
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Superspeed readers like me can read 150 - 200+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. LOL														
														
I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review.  														
														
From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.														
	
This compelling memoir of a girl in uniform reveals the first-hand experience of the social attitudes towards women in post-war Britain.

A compelling memoir of post-war Britain. Jackie Skingley grew up with limited career choices but joining the Women’s Royal Army Corps offered her a different life, living and working in a military world, against the backdrop of the Cold War. Packed full of stories reflecting the changing sexual attitudes prior to the arrival of the pill and the sexual revolution of the mid-60s, Skingley’s memoir denotes a shift in the political and social fabric of the era. Follow her relationships with the men in her life from finding her first true love, which through a cruel act of fate was denied her, to embarking on a path of recovery.

As a lover of "Call the Midwife", "Land Girls" "Back in time for Dinner" and said ilk of shows, I loved this book as it took me through the years covered in those books. 	It wasn't easy to be a woman then - think ten children being the norm in some places going into the pill and the sexual revolution. (My mom speaks of those days, still - we watch those TV shows together.

Anyone who loves history, women's rights, and everything UK will love this book - in fact, I am foisting it on my book club to discuss come January.  Thanks for the chance to review this excellently written book. As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use by "Social Influencer Millennials" on Instagram and Twitter) so let's give it 👠👠👠👠👠
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