Member Reviews

I've read Helen Simonson's "The Summer Before the War" and loved it, so I jumped at the chance to read her latest novel.

The period around World War I has been neglected lately, with authors seeming to want to concentrate on WWII. So it's refreshing to read about that earlier time period and what challenges were faced by people after the war ended - both the returned servicemen (and they were predominantly men) and the women who also served at home.

The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club is only part of the story. The main themes are the roles of women in post-WWI society - how they'd been given the freedom and responsibility of working to keep things moving in Britian while so many men were away fighting, but were expected to give all that up when the men returned; and the struggles between reconciling the old ways of society and women's roles and the new understanding of what was really important, and women were capable of doing. So much more than getting married, following society's strict rules and preparing their daughters to grow up and do the same.

Simonsen presents these difficult themes in a light-hearted way without detracting from their importance. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

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Enjoyed this spirited and intelligent war story. Memorable characters, humor, and all around touching read. It was like meeting up with an old friend.

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It is post-WWI and 20-something Constance Haverhill is the companion of Mrs. Fog at a seaside resort while Mrs. Fog recovers from a bout with the Spanish Flu. Mrs. Fog's daughter, the very snobbish Lady Mercer, feels very magnanimous in offering Constance this position. Lady Mercer and Constance's mother had been at school together and while she says that Constance is practically family, she treats her as an inferior.

As Constance contemplates that it may be a bit of a lonely summer at the resort while surrounded by people of wealthier means, she meets the somewhat outrageous Poppy Wirrall in the lobby. Mrs. Wirrall, Poppy's mother, is also staying at the resort and is a bit more forward-thinking and unconventional than Lady Mercer. Poppy, herself, has her own business driving motorcycle "taxis" with sidecars and employs other women to do the same. Mrs. Wirrall had been married to a baronet and died while they were on the brink of divorce leaving her a country estate named Penneston. She keeps herself busy remodeling Penneston which her son Harris will inherit. Harris has come back from the war minus a leg and is dealing with the trauma of that.

As the Wirralls involve Constance in their lives, she grows to love them all, especially Harris whom she helps gain confidence in his ability to be a fully-functioning member of society with a purpose.

As another reviewer wrote, this is a comedy of manners, warmly and sensitively written with well-written characters and an interesting storyline. Another winner for Helen Simonsen. Thank you to Netgalley for offering me an ARC edition of this novel.

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️What I liked:

Poppy, Constance, Mrs. Fog, Mrs. Wirrall, Harris, Irene and Tilly.

~It was great to see Constance bloom in their company. ~I thought Harris’ frustrations as a disabled veteran were sad…and still a problem today.
~I absolutely loved everything about Poppy and her mother.


⭐️⭐️What I didn’t like:

~Too much beating the drum for women’s rights and social justice. We get it. The book can shine light on the issues of the time without every single chapter lamenting on the unfairness of it all.

~The situation with Mrs. Fog and her friends seemed a little hard to believe. Sometimes I wanted her to show more backbone and stand up to her daughter.

~Mrs. Fog’s daughter! She was awful! How could Constance’s mother ever have been good friends with her as a child?

Thank you to the publishers at NetGalley for the advanced reader copy for review.

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At the same time thought-provoking and charming, this novel describes the plight of British women following WWI as they lost their newfound independence when men returned from war. The main character, Constance, will soon be at loose ends without any prospects, when she befriends free-spirited Poppy, a wealthy young woman who runs a motorcycle taxi business and flies planes. The story becomes complicated by their difference in social and financial status, and by Constance's growing affection for Poppy's brother, who has endured a leg amputation and suffers from PTSD. As expected, the ending is satisfying and heartwarming.

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This was such an enjoyable book, it had the same vibes has the early Poirot books, the attention to the historical details, the characters were very engaging and were true to their times.
It was a really character driven book, I felt for so many of them, and was deeply invested in their story.
Even though novels set in this time period are not new, Helen Simonson is able to bring something new and refreshing. Loved it!

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This is a delightful historical fiction story about a little-known group of women. I’ll recommend for all who enjoy the genre!

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The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club by Helen Simonson
After losing her mother, Constance Haverhill becomes the companion to elderly Mrs. Fog in the seaside town of Hazelbourne-by-the-Sea.
Here she meets the adventurous women of the HLM&FC. She learns many life lessons from them, like standing up for herself, and fighting for the things she wants, and even how to fly.
There are many interesting storylines going on in this post World War II novel, and the characters are well developed. This was a captivating snapshot of a small town and how it adapts to the changes wrought by war.
#netgalley

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Set just following the end of WWII, women are being told to return to their previous life. In need of employment, Constance accepts the role of companion for a seaside trip. There she finds friendship and hope for a better future. Funny and bittersweet at times, beneath it all this novel makes us look at our assumptions about people.

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Constance is off, "watching" over an elderly family friend, as the war has ended, her parents have passed, and the family whom they had lived with are trying to kick her out. She meets Poppy at the hotel, a rebel of sorts, who has started a motorcycle service for transportation driven my an all female crew. Of courses there is romance, drama, as well as a few more poignant moments. The story moves along, the characters are endearing, and it was an enjoyable read.
Thanks to NetGalley, Ms Simonson, and Random House for the pre-read in exchange for an honest review

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I love Helen Simonson’s books. Her books always champion the less advantaged, but without malice. I like her descriptions of places, people and clothes too.

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At first go, Helen Simonson's latest is a light-hearted tale of an eclectic group of women who want to transform their satisfying work as motorcycle relay riders during World War I into a post-war business.

But then there's the other part, which gives this novel its grit. Everyone, no matter what age or social status, is struggling to get their footing in the post-war world. The losses were so massive, followed by deaths from the 1918 flu that no one is left untouched.

Constance Haverhill is in a pinch. Her mother has died, her brother is newly married, and she has lost her job as an estate manager because these jobs must now go to men. Friends have arranged for her to go to a seaside resort as a companion to Mrs. Fog, an elderly lady recovering from the flu who becomes a very surprising character, indeed. Poppy Wirrall, who wears trousers and runs a motorcycle taxi and delivery service, takes Constance under her wing and introduces her to the many denizens of the hotel. Despite the fun and excitement, Constance can never forget her precarious situation, that she has no prospects, that being a governess, a waitress or a maid at poverty wages is what she can hope for no matter what her qualifications. The plight of women who drove the war effort from home and are now expected to retreat into their limited, pre-war lives is explored, as is class, race, and prejudice. These not only impact women, but wounded and shattered soldiers who need to find a way forward when people want to ignore the physical manifestation of the war's destruction.

Simonson's novel works on many levels and is satisfying on all of them. It's an engaging read, deceptively simple. The ending may seem like a cop-out, but honestly, would you be able to handle it if it went any other way?

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital review copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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I was invited by the publisher to review this review edition and I was happy to do it. The book takes place just after the first world war in Britain. The settings and accompanying details are vivid and enjoyable to read about. I must admit that at first I had a difficult time enjoying the book. I stuck with it and eventually I enjoyed reading the book a lot. I especially liked the characters, the women are bold and independent and some of them struggle with daily survival after the men return from the war. You constantly root for Constance Haverhill who goes to the seaside to help and elderly friend for the summer. The adventures she and the people of the town have will keep you reading, and I won't give the story away. The book in its way deals with sexism, racism , and classism. I felt the book got better the farther along you were. The most enjoyable parts were those that dealt with the motorcycle and flying club and the women who were involved with it.

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I loved this book! The characters are all great and the setting of a seaside town after World War I is interesting too. If you are fan of historical fiction I highly recommend this book.

The second half of this book was so good that I had a hard time setting the book and stayed up late reading the last part of this book to see how it all ends. I loved the ending too. The author did a great job of wrapping up the story.

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I was thrilled to get the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book since I am such a big fan of the author's previous books. It was worth the long wait for this book. I loved everything about it. Simonson does a wonderful job showing many aspects of life in England post-WWI, including class differences, the status of women, romantic relationships, racism, discrimination against Germans, the magnitude of the injuries suffered during the war and much more. It was very atmospheric, thanks to her beautifully written, detailed descriptions. The main character faces many obstacles trying to become self-sufficient and figuring out where she stands in society. The other characters cope with similar issues but with different perspectives. From reading this book, one realizes how widespread the impact of the war was on the entire population. I also enjoyed learning about the early history of motorcycling and aviation. I think the book would be a great choice for book discussion groups. I very highly recommend this book and look forward to more from the author.

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I loved it! I spent so many enjoyable hours with this story, often long into the night and I was really sorry when it ended.
This is the third book I have read from the author, and I hope there will be many more. I love the way Helen Simonson writes.
The story has a solid historical background. You can see not only the events, but also the undercurrents of society at that time. Even the language shows the way they might have spoken then.
The novel has a very interesting plot with several hard issues: racism, social injustice, unequality for women etc. It is interesting to see how each of the characters deal with them.
I loved most of the characters. The author creates especially strong female protagonists.
There is romance, but there is tragedy as well in the story. I was really sorry for some of the characters' fate.
All in all, It is a very good book, Read it, You are in for a treat

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That was a whole lot of fun to read. The cast of characters is a colorful bunch. I would definitely want to read a sequence with them. The historical time and place (culture and all) were interesting components to the plot. I had never read this author before and now I look forward to reading her prior novels. I highly recommend this book.

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4.0 I’ve really liked Helen Simonson’s other books, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and The Summer Before the War, all during the WWI era, a timeframe that is generally lacking in recent novels. I really liked this one, too. As in WWII,, women took the place of those men who went to serve, and when the war was over, the women generally lost their jobs to the returning soldiers. This novel takes place in post WWI and after the Spanish flu pandemic. We are introduced to Constance,, the main character, who had lost her mother and also the family farm to her brother so she is challenged economically to find a job. Constance was provided a job by her mother’s childhood friend to take care of her elderly convalescing mother at a seaside resort in England. Constance meets some engaging, cheeky, and hardworking young women who themselves are struggling after the war to keep their jobs running a motorcycle taxi service.. They ran taxis during the war and want to start a flying school. Although some are from the upper crust of society, not all are and they, too, are trying to survive financially. All of the characters are engaging and well defined. In addition to the sexual discrimination issues, there are issues of discrimination in social status, the discrimination that disabled returning servicemen faced, along with the tragedies, emotional and physical, that all faced during and after in the war. A nice read. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me an advance copy in exchange for an unbiased and candid review.

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The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club had me turning pages furiously and well into the night. The characters, the struggles of both the men and the women trying to fit back in after the war, and the social class differences in England all came to life in this book. It was a fascinating read, one that I will remember and recommend to friends and family.

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I was invited to read and review this book, and I accepted the invitation on the premise that the book would be funny and engaging to read. I've not read a book by Helen Simonson before and thought this would be a great introduction to her writings.

The novel takes place post World War I and Spanish Flu pandemic. Constance is occupied with being an old family friend's companion, but soon the friend won't need her and she will need to find a job that pays her. Her friend, Poppy, wants to start a motorcycle-taxi business with all female drivers and mechanics. And Poppy wants to learn to fly. Poppy's brother is a veteran of the war and was a flyer in the war, but he lost his leg on one of his missions. This is a story about Poppy taking Constance under her wing and helping her find her way in an ever-changing world.

I have to say this wasn't my favorite book that I've read this year. I felt the plot was rather stilted and forced, and I had a hard time wading through the book. I'd have to say this is a three-star book.

Random House Publishing Group provided the copy I read for this review. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

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