Cover Image: The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club

The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Thank you NetGalley and Helen Simpson for the arc of this great novel!This historical fiction novel was super fun and sweet! The authors writing was spectacular and kept the reader wanting more! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Was this review helpful?

“The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club” is by Helen Simonson. This is a post-WWI historical fiction book. What I really liked about this book was that it was post-WWI and post-Spanish Flu. Ms. Simonson tackles head on the fact that women who worked during the war “for the boys,” found themselves at loose ends when “the boys over there” returned home and were given back their jobs. While the war, in some respects, gave women opportunities they had never had before (Factory Worker vs Nanny; Delivery Girl vs Laundress) and to have those opportunities yanked away from them must have been tremendously difficult to take. My two complaints about this book are that there were a lot of characters, including a number who were minor characters at the hotel. The other thing was that this book moves incredibly slowly with minute descriptions of things that really didn’t matter to the story. I found myself skimming parts of this book a bit. I think the idea was a great one, but it didn’t always work.

Was this review helpful?

I was delighted to receive the ARC from Netgalley and the publisher. Its author, Helen Simonson, wrote Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, which remains high on my list of all-time favourite books.

The story takes place in England in 1919 following the end of WWI and the Spanish influenza pandemic, which resulted in many deaths. It examines women's plight after the men's return from the war. The women worked in jobs usually held by the absent men but were now being replaced by males. The class system was in place with its snobbery, prejudice, and ideas for what constituted conventional, proper conduct. Social restrictions were placed against women, disabled servicemen, people of mixed race, and members of the colonies due to their racial or ethnic origins.

This book was entertaining and informative. At 432 pages, I felt it could have been shorter. There were lengthy chapters with abundant descriptions, making it an uneven, slow-paced read. The characters were wonderfully written, memorable, and came alive on the page.

Constance Haverhill worked in wartime as a proficient estate bookkeeper. She was evicted from her cottage and profession at the war's end. With the death of their parents, her brother inherited the family farm and its lands. His wife unreasonably blamed Connie for the death of their child from influenza, and she no longer felt welcome. Her only prospects seemed to be a governess, housekeeper, and similar low-paying work or marriage with little hope of supporting herself. Her efforts to find work as a bookkeeper were met with failure.

It also follows the sad story of Klaus, a German who is now a naturalized British citizen. He works as a waiter but needs to keep a low profile due to his accent. He meets with scorn, public humiliation, and brutality.

Connie manages to find a position as a companion to an elderly family friend, Mrs. Fog, who is recovering from influenza, at a seaside resort. She learns that many years ago, Mrs. Fog hoped to marry a man of mixed race from Barbados. She was also good friends with his sister. Her father put an end to their romance. She is now visiting with him and his sister after having no contact for years.
This gives Connie the freedom to explore Hazlebourne-by-the-Sea. She learns the strict social restrictions women must follow. A woman cannot eat in the hotel dining room alone; she must take meals in her room. They need a chaperone for social events. She meets and is befriended by Poppy Wirall, a member of the social elite. Poppy is unconventional and outspoken. She is denied entrance to the dining room because she is alone and wearing trousers. The horror! Poppy runs a delivery service and taxi by motorcycle, employing women, and they are members of The Ladies Motorcycle Club. She has the intention of training the women to fly planes.

Poppy has a handsome brother, Harris, a pilot who lost a leg in the war. He is despondent as no one will employ him as a pilot, even giving him a chance to prove he is still capable. Applying for an office job or a shop job is futile because injured veterans are considered unsightly and may upset clients or other workers. He had been engaged, but the woman couldn't cope when he returned disabled and has made herself absent. With the encouragement of the Ladies Motorcycle Club members, Connie is finding projects that interest Harris and draw him out of his depression. Are they developing romantic feelings?

Mrs. Fog has a daughter who is very conventional, prim and proper, and highly critical of those who don't follow what she contends is appropriate behaviour. Her rudeness often falls on Connie. Perhaps she will be even more shocked by her own mother! Bigoted, inconsistent behaviour involves ignoring two former members of the Indian division whose many soldiers helped Britain in the war. They become much sought after and honoured once it is discovered one is a Maharaja. Class and racial divisions not only surface among the British. Connie has a cousin marrying an American, and his divisive statements make him very unpopular and obnoxious.

What will be the outcome for the Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club? The War Practices Act has been established, banning women from many professions. What will the future hold for Connie, Harris, Klaus, and other prominent characters? This compelling book is due to be published on May 7th, and I recommend it. This is an interesting examination of the morals, manners, customs, and conduct after WW1 and the influenza pandemic, with fascinating characters.

Was this review helpful?

Simonson writes the kind of thoughtful, cozy historical fiction I most enjoy—and this novel is no different. It has a cast of fleshed-out characters and a plot that is light on action but rich in detail. Would certainly recommend!

Was this review helpful?

A wonderful, comfortable story that made me want to settle in and forget the world. People I cared about, issues of the time that mattered, and an intriguing plot line. So much to like! It all took me back to what were not idyllic times, but it made me enjoy an idyll of reading. The pace lagged slightly at some points, but the characters drew me back in.

Publication May 7, 2024. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House | The Dial Press for an advance copy.

Was this review helpful?

A whimsical journey into post WWI England. The novel is historical fiction of the highest order,, a coming of age story, ,a tender romance, and a look at a nation on the brink of change. Delightful.
Many thanks to Random House and to Netgalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Was this review helpful?

4.5 stars, rounded down. Simonson's newest novel was a slam-dunk five-star read for me, right up until the last chapter or two, and I'm only knocking off a half star for the pacing issues at the end because the rest of the novel had me completely immersed. This story is set in 1919, just after World War I, in an English seaside town. Constance Haverhill is a young woman who has lost both her parents and is trying to figure out her way forward in life. In the meantime, she is staying for the summer in a seaside hotel as a companion for an older woman recovering from the influenza. The class system is alive and well in this novel, leading to some absolutely odious people and encounters, but there is also a whole cast of wonderful, fascinating, and well-rounded characters to counterbalance the snobs. This was shaping up to be my favorite book of the year so far, and then the last bit of the book had an absolute onslaught of difficult emotional punches with not nearly enough space and time to absorb them properly. Still, I 100% recommend reading this if you like historical fiction featuring strong and interesting women. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - The Dial Press for a digital review copy.

Was this review helpful?

At the end of the First World War, young women find themselves out of their war jobs, and trying to find work in a world trying to return to old ways. An informative and intriguing read of two women and an injured soldier trying to find their way in a new society.

Was this review helpful?

Wonderful characters. A showcase of the good and the prejudices of the time after the Great War and that we still face today. Constance shows such strength and courage and resilience. A story of joy and sadness, hope and acceptance, kindness and cruelty with the message that humans make choices and live their lives in many ways.

Was this review helpful?

Below is my review posted to NetGalley. Thank you for allowing me to read this beautiful novel!

-First my thanks to Random House Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity for an ARC copy of this novel 🫶

A story told from the points of view of the people who were used, abused, and left behind after the war- a woman who stepped up to do a man’s job, a man injured serving, a German trying to eek out a life after spending time in an internment camp. It was heartbreakingly beautiful to watch their growth throughout the novel.

If you enjoy strong female characters and friendship, rebellions against societal standards, and overall a story showing how people from different walks of life dealt with changes after the war— this book is for you!

**Spoilers**

I greatly enjoyed watching Constance vacillate between the desire to be pretty and her desire to be substantial. I enjoyed watching her come into her own and realize that she didn’t have to choose and could embrace both aspects of being a woman.

Poppy’s attitude and actions had me back and forth with my feelings for her. In the end I feel like Constance wouldn’t have ended the summer the way she did without the encouragement and opportunities Poppy gave her. So while I don’t always agree with her actions I was relatively happy with the end result.

I was OBSESSED with Mrs. Fog living her best life, telling Lady Mercer about her reconnection with her gentleman friend. Lady Mercer constantly clutching her petals for the rest of the story had me cackling while I was reading. It was the comeuppance she deserved for her snobby attitude. And I was giggling and kicking my feet in happiness for Mrs. Fog!

I enjoyed watching Constance and Harris’s relationship grow but I’m not sure how I feel about them ending up together. I feel like he came back to Constance kind of as a last resort/safe option. I understand he was a gentleman and that’s why he didn’t cancel his engagement to Evangeline but if I were Constance I’d feel second best. I guess maybe that’s the point of it all? I’m not sure. I’m glad they had their happy ending but Harris is still not forgiven for how he treated Constance at the end.

Overall I greatly enjoyed this book!

However, if you’re like me and easily distracted it can take some time to read. The chapters are rather long. I’m a fast reader and my kindle often said 15-20+ minutes to read one chapter. I get easily distracted if a chapter is more than 10 minutes long. Because of this, it did take me longer to read than I think it normally would.

I really liked the multiple POVs without having too many different ones going back and forth.

A book I’ll definitely be recommending!

Was this review helpful?

I received this from Netgalley.com.

I really wanted to like this more but it didn't fullly grab my attention. The characters were unremarkable and the story got bogged down with the info dumps.

2☆

Was this review helpful?

I did enjoy the book and will be recommending it to some of the patrons of the library that I work for. The premise of the novel was what initially drew me to the book. Fascination of societal changes that occurred post war have always caught my attention. Given other titles this writer has released this one felt more morose than I anticipated- that being said though it was a solid 4 star in my opinion.

Was this review helpful?

Constance lost her mother and then her job in 1919 when the boys return from WWI. While serving as a companion at a seaside inn, she enjoys a group of young women in a motorcycle and flying club, but she still must battle England’s class system.

Was this review helpful?

It is easy to get lost within the pages of this wonderful book. Helen Simonson’s The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club is a poignant piece of history that tells of a time following The Great War. As men returned home from war, there was no longer a place for women who were in employment.

The story focuses on Constance Haverhill, who leaves her family farm after losing her mother to Spanish Influenza and after falling out of sorts with her brother and sister in law. Constance is an educated daughter of a farmer that often straddles both worlds of the wealthy and the working class. She accompanies Mrs. Fog to a seaside resort to care for her as she convalesces. While there, she meets a spirited young woman named Poppy Wirrall who brings her into her motorcycle and flying club. With Poppy’s influence, Constance considers a life of independence, but can she escape societal expectations?

I fell in love with the charming and romantic characters of this book. I felt the despair and hopelessness of the dejected working women. It is also not hard to feel the weight of the discrimination and division of classes during this time period. It is, I believe, one of Helen Simonson’s best novels by far.
This book was captivating from the very first page until the very last page of the epilogue. I cannot express how wonderful it was to have read about women from all walks of life that had to find a place after WWI.

Special thanks to the publisher for the ARC. My honest review is voluntary.

Was this review helpful?

Many readers at our small public library enjoy novels that feature female characters who are both independent and kindhearted. This new novel by Ms. Simonson is sure to appeal to them, as it offers a quirky group of women who are well able to handle the ups and downs of life. Since the book focuses on the protracted impact of World War One on an isolated village in England, their resilience is a relief and a delight The book is pacy, - of course it is, since vehicles both on the ground and in the air move the story along. A healthy side of humor and frequent use of nicely-stated metaphors add to the reader's enjoyment.

Was this review helpful?

I love Helen Simonson's books. This ticks all the boxes for a feel good read that book clubs can discuss. A story about friendship and finding your way after WWII when the men return to their jobs and women want more from life in the new normal.

Was this review helpful?

A glorious read. I always particularly love how accurate Simonson's characters are to their time and place and yet how they find ways to overcome their obstacles.

Was this review helpful?

The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club is a light, fluffy romance that highlights the dilemma women faced in 1919 England when men returned from the war and took their jobs. Despite being stellar as a manager in her village, Constance must find a man to marry or take a job as a governess. Currently, caring for an elderly widow in a seaside hotel, she meets wealthy, effervescent Poppy who operates a motorcycle delivery business. Poppy’s brother Harris, a Sopworth Camel pilot, has returned from combat minus a leg. His depressed state causes Poppy to act rashly. While it isn’t as steeped in the brilliant sarcasm of her previous Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, the novel will appeal to historical fiction lovers who want a witty escape with a message.

Was this review helpful?

3.5 stars

The author comments that this book was written in the shadow not only of the pandemic, but the deaths of several family members. I enjoyed the story and the characters, but it did seem a bit uneven, especially near the end.

Set in England after the Great War, the story relates the changing position of women in that society and their lack of choices. At its best, the writing to me was very reminiscent of Barbara Pym, one of my favorites. Constance is acting as a vacation companion to old Mrs. Fog after nursing her through a deadly illness. Mrs. Fog is a great character, unlike her snooty and charmless daughter Mrs. Mercer. Constance is now orphaned and without financial resources after her family farm was left to her brother and she became just an extra person in his household. This was a bitter pill after Constance quite competently managed the farm during the war years. Jobs are being reserved for returning veterans.

Constance falls in with an interesting crowd -- most of the women come from monied backgrounds but are independent and want to start businesses and work. Constance has a knack for improving situations just be walking in the door and is soon busy helping a fledgling motorcycle taxi company and straightening out the financial books of her new friends.

The characterizations are interesting -- from the stereotypical crude but self-important bigoted American to the status-obsessed British upper class. There's a lot of subtlety in the interactions which make for an enjoyable read, touching on hypocrisy, racism and the aftermath of war. Not all the "good guys" turn out to be so wonderful. This is a quiet but compelling read. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Was this review helpful?

The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club is an interesting story about the changing of times after WWII and all it meant for the females who had to return home when the men came back. Honestly, I tried to get into it, but had trouble keeping all of the characters straight. I did enjoy some of it, but I didn't finish it. Thanks for the chance though

Was this review helpful?