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The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club

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Member Reviews

The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club is generally an easy read about a young woman in a wealthy seaside hotel for the summer. Under the gentle romance and friendship, there is a sad undercurrent of a society trying to heal from World War 2. This is an enjoyable and thought-provoking novel.

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4.0 difficult path for women post WWI

I managed to read two WWI books, back-to-back! This one had a different angle and, for me, really illustrated the class structure in England and showed how difficult a path women had, especially after the war. So many women stepped into work roles while the men were away at war and got a taste of what that was like, earning their own money. Then, when the war was over, the women were expected to go back to traditional roles as wives and mothers and not work.

We have several characters and points of view in this one. Constance managed the farm office for three years during the war and has several accounting certificates. Now she’s struggling to find a job, as men are supposed to do these jobs now. Due to her mother’s friendship with a wealthy family and her nursing a sick family member back to health, she’s been rewarded with spending a summer at the seaside as a companion.

We see how the wealthy live and how Constance is treated. Constance meets a young woman Poppy, who is enterprising and has set up a motorcycle club and business serving as a taxi. The two women develop a friendship and Constance is pulled into her social orbit. We also meet Poppy’s brother, Harris, a pilot who lost his leg in the war. He’s also struggling to find his place, and we see how he’s treated as if he has nothing left to contribute to the world.

There’s much more to this book, and it was often unsettling. Several times, characters are mistreated because of their social standing, nationality, or race. The author successfully places us in this time. In some ways, we have advanced in terms of women’s rights and humanity, but there’s still a long way to go!

I rooted for Constance to find some measure of happiness, either with a job, or romance, or true friendship.

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I’m a big fan of this author, and this book did not disappoint.

Set in 1919 in Britain, during the Influenza epidemic that came about right after the end of the first world war, the book follows Constance Haverhill, a young lady that is struggling to find her way in the changing society of the time. As the men return from the war, women are forced to give up the jobs that they took over, and with them some of their independence.

In Constance’s case she ran the family estate, having taken bookkeeping courses by correspondence. Now the estate has been turned over to her brother, and she must leave her cottage and find work. Not wanting to be a governess, one of the few positions deemed socially acceptable for a young lady, she becomes a companion to an elderly lady, Mrs. Fog, recovering from illness at a seaside resort. There Constance meets Poppy Wirral, a well-connected young woman who runs a ladies motorcycle club.

Poppy and her friends are modern, intelligent young women who wear trousers, ride motorcycles and generally behave in a way very much frowned upon by polite society. Harris, Poppy’s brother, has returned from the RAF injured, having lost his leg, and he is struggling both mentally and physically with coming back to regular life.

This book highlighted the treatment of women during this period of history, and the huge differences between the classes and especially between people of money, such as the Wirral family, and people like Constance who must make their own way in a world that suddenly does not value the skills that helped Britain get through the war. It also highlighted the treatment of anyone who returned from war ‘damaged’, who were treated as if they were mentally feeble rather than physically injured.

I bristled with annoyance over some of the ways in which Constance was treated, while also acknowledging the fact that the author did a marvelous job of showing exactly how things really worked at the time.

Filled with wonderful descriptions of the time and place, and some excellently detailed and somewhat quirky characters, this book was a joy to read. I particularly loved following the bright, sharp, strong Constance as she figures out her path in life.

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“The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club” is my first read from author Helen Simonson. It is set in a small village in England the year after WWI ends. It follows the adventures that ensue when down on her luck lady’s companion Constance Haverhill meets local gentry Poppy Wirrall who runs a motorcycle based taxi and delivery service.

From the description of the book, you might think that high jinks ensue and that it’d be full of madcap adventures of empowered young women. But while it is described as a comedy of manners, I’d say this book is more of a slow moving post-war character study with a bit of romance thrown in.

The book was slow to take off, in my opinion, but I did eventually become invested. I just found it hard to decide what kind of book it was and go settle in accordingly. The ending came pretty quickly and was a little jarring.

I will say that I appreciated learning more about the German/British experiencing during WWI from a character named Klaus. I also learned a lot from Poppy’s brother Harris about what injured servicemen dealt with upon returning from the war.

If you like character driven historical fiction I have no doubt you’ll love this book.

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Thanks to the Dial Press, Helen Simonson, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a free ebook in exchange for my honest review.

Like Helen Simonson's two previous novel, this unfolds at a pace that is rarely found in modern novels. Its timing is more akin to a jane austen or George Eliot novel that is told at the pace of life for people of a certain station in a time long ago. Through characters that we come to know deeply, Simonson shows us why honesty, humility, and caring for those around us are important in life. Not all of the characters are thoroughly good, and not all of them are thoroughly bad (although some of them do some pretty bad things). I loved this book because it very subtly leads the reader down a trail and allows the reader to form opinions about the characters' actions. This novel is a model work in "showing" not "telling". The dialog was exemplary and I will miss the characters, especially Mrs. Fog, now that I won't be visiting them every day!

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I wanted to love this book based on the synopsis but I found it was too confusing to be enjoyable. I do not recommend it.

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I've read previous novels by Helen Simonson and this one did not disappoint. Delving into the world of the wealthy women who helped during the second world war but are now being told they are not needed along with a woman whom they befriend but desperately needs a job after the loss of her parents and her only brother married to a woman who doesn't want her around.

These motorcycle-riding women who are able to manage these noisy, unwieldy machines start a motorcycle taxi service, much to the chagrin of the 'proper' hotel guests who can't abide women in pants on these machines. Relationships come together and fall apart. Secrets are revealed and families are put to the test of loyalty.

A compelling work of historical fiction.

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World War I is over, the soldiers are returning home, and now the women who helped sustain the war effort are expected to leave their jobs and return to domestic life. Wait. Not so fast. Not every woman is willing to give up the jobs and responsibilities that they’ve enjoyed. Some of these women are members of the Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle Club.

Ms Simonson has written a book that looks at the aftermath of WWI and the expectations of society as Great Britain settles into a new norm. British society and women’s place in that society is much of the focus. By and large, I found the “society” women to be distasteful, rude, and hurtful. Their attitudes and expectations were simply inexcusable. Only two women were the exception and they were delightful.

Overall, I enjoyed the latest book by Ms Simonson but there was a lot of repetition detailing the plight of women and that seemed to cause the plot to falter more than once. NetGalley provided an advance copy.

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This was ok. I think I expected more depth, based on the description. It felt a bit flat to me. However, I did like the author's style, and it might be I have just read too many books like this. Though the motorcycle club was a new angle. I think it would appeal to readers who like books with a lighter feel. Thanks to Netgalley for the chance to read the ARC.

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I was delighted by this novel and set aside all other books to read it.

I loved it for the witty epigrammatic insights of the characters. I loved it for the sensitive portrayal of the post WWI world of Britain. There are the war wounded men, struggling with horrific disfigurement and trauma, unable to obtain employment because no one wanted to be confronted with the human cost of the war, and because they were considered mentally as well as physically handicapped. Spunky women who had kept Britain together were being forced out of jobs after the government classifies the jobs as for men only. I loved it for the wonderfully drawn characters. So often, I was reminded of Jane Austen, that master of the comedy of manners and reversals of fortune in affairs of the heart.

In 1919, Constance Haverhill is a companion to her mother’s dear friend, connected by regard and not by mere economics, summering at a seaside resort. Come fall, she must find employment or become dependent on her brother, who had inherited the family farm. During the war, she had run an estate, her accounting and management skills top notch. But that job was going back to a man.

Constance meets the iconoclastic Poppy and her women friends who hope to continue their independence with a motorcycle transport business. These daredevil ladies include a mechanic and a motorcycle racer. Poppy hopes to expand the business by adding flying lessons for ladies; her brother Harris was a pilot in the war, returning home without a leg. He is morose and surly; his fiance had thrown him over, unable to face a crippled husband.

The war had left two million disabled and over forty thousand amputees, many of the men maimed with no prospects for employment or love, Constance learns when she visits the local convalescent center filled with veterans. Constance and Harris face the same challenges, unable to find employment. “People are unable to see beyond what they deem our limitations,” Harris concedes.

With the introduction of an American Southerner and a man from India with a secret, the story addresses racism on both sides of the pond.

Constance is drawn into Poppy’s exciting circle and her welcoming family, taking risks she would never have imagined. But even they fail her, their wealth sheltering them from their worst actions. Her prospects growing dim, Constance outwardly keeps her place while secretly she is breaking limits, daring to hope for a fuller life.

Thanks to the publisher for a free book.

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Taking place after WWI, The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club explores how WWI has affected the lives of young and old in Great Britain. The novel explores how men returning from war with physical or mental disabilities are looked upon as lesser beings. Women who had been employed in traditionally male jobs during the war are now being replaced by returning veterans since the men require those jobs to support their families (even if the women in those jobs are also supporting families in the absence of their men.) The novel explores how Germans living in England were mistreated during the war and thereafter. It also looks at the differences in attitudes between the nobility and the working classes as well as how the upper class doesn’t want to associate with those it perceives as not worthy of their attentions such as blacks and/or citizens of the British Commonwealth. And throughout it all, there are those who are trying to change these insular attitudes. Constance is one of those people and we see how she tries to both accept and change these preconceived mindsets.

Another five-star novel by Helen Simonson! Highly recommended.

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The story is set in a seaside town in England just after the first World War. It's a time of social change. Women who worked while men were away fighting are loathe to give up their jobs to returning soldiers. Social mores are being challenged though class prejudices still remain strong.
Constance is a summer companion to an elderly woman recovering from influenza.
At the Meridith Hotel she meets the Wirrall family - mother, maverick daughter Poppy who runs a motorcycle taxi business and son. Harris who lost part of his leg in battle.
Constance finds her former quiet, dutiful life upended when she becomes part of Poppy's motorcycle group.
The story is pleasantly bland and predictable with too many subplots. There's lots of repetition- old ladies playing whist and sipping bouillon, snooty upper class people expressing disdain for the working class. Characters are flat and the ending was obvious early on.
Thanks to Netgalley and Dial Press for the ARC.

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Connie and her mother have been living on the estate where her mother worked, but now her mother has died, so there is nothing for her to do except live with her brother on the family farm. Since that is not possible at this time, she takes a position as a companion to an elderly lady who is spending the summer at a resort by the sea. Since she had been running the estate while all the men were at war she had been hoping to find a position as a bookkeeper after the summer is over. In the meantime she makes friends with Poppy, who since she is from the upper class, can get away with an unusual lifestyle. My 21st century sensibilities were offended by being reminded of the constraints on women in the World War I era. The ladies and their motorcycles were a good, fun story, but the book was also important for reminding how well we have it in our own time. It will be a good read for my high school friends. I received this as an arc from NetGalley, and am under no pressure for a positive review.

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I loved this book. The writing is just exquisite. The differences between the haughty upper echelon of society, toward the proletariat, are less than subtle. Having financial stability doesn’t automatically mean having class. Constance, being part of the less privileged, exudes the acumen of an extraordinary and sensitive and intelligent woman. Poppy and Tilly and Iris are strong and incredibly efficient. Adored Mrs. Fog and Harris and abhorred Lady Mercer! Life after WWI was not kind to women, in many ways. But the perseverance, of many of the strongest female sect, proved themselves exceptional. The members of the Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Cub will win your hearts! Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own. #TheHazelbourneLadiesMotorcycleandFlyongClub, #NetGalley.

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The Hazelbourne Ladies Motorcycle and Flying Club by Helen Simonson

I enjoyed the story very much but it was unsettling in many ways. Constance Haverhill is very lucky to be acting as the companion to the elderly mother of her late mother's best friend. Constance and her mother had lived a life dependent on her mother's wealthy friend but now Constance's mother has died, leaving everything to Constance's brother, and Constance has nothing to her name. Her mother's wealthy friend wants Constance settled somewhere, in service to a good family...that's to be Constance's future, to work in servitude to those with wealth, money, and power, despite Constance's education and the fact that she ran an estate for three years while the men were away at war.

But at least Constance has this summer in Hazelbourne, living a pleasant life as a companion. Her time belongs to others and her future is extremely limited to the menial jobs allowed to poor women. She sees her future when she looks at the hired help at the hotel where they are staying. These people are invisible to the wealthy and powerful, never allowed to mingle, always to use the servants entrance.

Yes, this story is about a women's motorcycle club but even more it's about the classes, where a person is from, which side they fought on in the war, and all the ways people rank each other. As the men come back from war, the women who have kept the country running, doing the jobs the men did before they left, must now relinquish the jobs and be happy to accept that they no longer get to hold those jobs anymore. Constance's new friend, Poppy, has her own business in order to get around the inability of women to find jobs they enjoy and that challenge them. Her business is giving women a way to earn money providing rides for women in their motorcycle side cars. Deliveries can be made this way, also. Poppy has a lot of ideas for her business if she can keep it going. She is also trying to raise the spirits of her brother Harris, home from the war after losing a leg.

The story is very descriptive and all the descriptions give the story a slow start. But once we know the place, the characters and where they stand in relation to each other, we can see not much is what is seems on the surface. There are the faces presented to the public but then there are the messes hidden from public view. Those with money may not be so well off, friends may not be so friendly when it comes to business, and all the women are expected to just settle back into whatever they were doing before the war, no longer needed or even acknowledged for all that they did while the men were gone. The bright spot for Constance is that for this summer, for a short time she can almost forget she has no future.

Thank you to Random House | The Dial Press and NetGalley for this ARC.

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This is such a beautiful book, filled with the kind of writing that makes you want to highlight every delicious sentence so you can lick the collection of words every now and then like a favorite ice cream.
It's not just the words that are lovely, though, it's also the story and the subplots set in a time when women were treated as objects that have their place on a dusty shelf rather than unique individuals with a wealth of personality and much to contribute to society. Simonsen has a lot of fun mocking the social order of post-war life, and her main character has the best lines, like a 1940s Persuasion.
The historical research was very well done, with lots of information that was never info-dumped on the reader but parsed superbly throughout the pages.
I hope PBS picks up the book and turns it into a show. A huge well done to the author - a wonderful read.

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Helen Simonson just does not disappoint. Her historical fiction storytelling is never heavy handed. She manages to create realistic situations and a plot set in post WWI which ring true without hamstringing her characters. In this story of women (and men) trying to re-define, or hold onto their lives as created in wartime and challenged in post war Britain is so well crafted.

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I liked this book, but for some reason, not as much as her last books. I’m hoping to read it again, as I may just have been in a bad spot to enjoy it.

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For me, a certain sadness permeated this book. Perhaps it was due to the many forms of discrimination that were included as realistically taking place during post WWI England. However, having said that, most of the characters were likable and ultimately determined to overcome the obstacles facing them. This is a thoughtful and thought provoking book. Helen Simonson manages to deliver books that are deep and ultimately hopeful. This is another excellent entry into her historical fiction canon.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this arc in exchange for an honest review.

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Too long and drawn out. It showed promise with the premise of strong women blazing a trail post WWI, but it petered into disparate love stories that undercut that potential. Much hand-wringing over the unfairness of the world for those of the wrong gender or class and I grew tired of it. I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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