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High Heels & Beetle Crushers
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.
Sep 16, 2019: Julie Haigh | We Love Memoirs A wonderful memoir. I loved and thoroughly enjoyed this memoir by Jackie Skingley. The title having caught my eye; I didn't know what Beetle Crushers were. I don't know much about the Army-but you don't have to know to read this. A truly wonderful read. The author was a child at the time of the Second World. A coming of age memoir. Good atmosphere and scene-setting. Warmth and contentment which is suddenly changed irrevocably. Harder times, then chuckles and charming tales. Just a little way in and it was already a powerful read. Life, loves, losses, challenges, memories and emotions, all perfectly captured. I like how there are mentions throughout the book of what music was playing at the time, as in this example: You Make me Feel So Young by Frank Sinatra. I can highly recommend this book. It was well written, easy to read, and totally engrossing from the outset.
Sep 20, 2019: E J Bauer | Author Memoirs are a favourite genre of mine, but it's rare that a personal story reads like well-written fiction. I was intrigued from her first childhood altercation with the local constabulary and followed the author's life from early loss, family trials, a strict education and finally to a career in the army in the post Second World War years. Sounds a little formulaic? Well, the threads of romance woven through the chapters make for an intriguing read. I had to keep reminding myself this wasn't a fanciful story; these events actually happened. This book is definitely a page-turner and better still, the author left me wanting to know what happened next.
Sep 24, 2019: Clara Challoner Walker | Book Reviewer In this exquisite memoir, Jackie Skingley bids us walk by her side, into her world and her time. The skill with which she leads us through her own and her familial narrative conjures the sights, smells, sounds and raw emotions of a family and community pulling together in ambiguous and uncertain times. But this isn’t just a historical memoir; about chit-chat, music, dancing, dresses and flirtations. Nor is it simply an insight into ‘women in the forces’; it’s so much more. Jackie’s intelligent and well-presented insights enable us to draw thoughtful parallels between a woman navigating the delicate balance between ambition, desire and societal expectation in days gone by and the challenges of navigating these contentions today. Her observations on the community, the sexual ‘revolution’ and grief are as relevant now as they were in the past. She thoughtfully encourages us to reflect on our own lives and times through the gaze of her younger self. She has left this reader hungry for more and looking forward to enjoying more of her work in the future.
Sep 25, 2019: Vanessa Couchman | Author of the Tales of Corsica series and Overture, Book 1 in the Alouette trilogy High Heels & Beetle Crushers is not only a personal memoir but also a record of postwar British social history. Jackie Skingley’s pilot father was shot down during World War II, and she was brought up by her mother and stepfather, Reg, who emerges from the book as less than sympathetic. Women’s career choices in the 1950s and early 1960s were limited in Britain, but Jackie Skingley wants more out of life than to walk straight out of school into a marriage. Following a stint as a hotel receptionist, she joins the Women’s Royal Army Corps. Much of the book relates her experiences, first as a cadet and then as a commissioned officer. Along the way, Jackie experiences love loss and grief as well as fun and comradeship. This coming-of-age memoir is well written and reads like fiction. The author’s descriptions of her emotions are immediate and absorbing, making this book difficult to put down. The book is also of immense interest as a chronicle of the changing social landscape of postwar Britain. Sexism is still rife; women are still treated as second-class citizens in the workplace; and homosexuality is still taboo. But the sexual revolution is starting, and women are beginning to make their own way in the world. The story ends a little abruptly, but I hope this means that a sequel is in the offing, which I shall certainly read. I can highly recommend this book and thank the publishers for the opportunity to read an advance copy.
Oct 7, 2019: Jacqueline Brown | French Village Diaries My review today is for the memoir High Heels and Beetle Crushers by Jackie Skingley. Whilst this book is not set in France, the author is, and as well as sharing first names, we also live in the same part of France and have attended writing workshops and events together over the years. I was delighted to be asked if I’d like to review her first memoir and interestingly enough, as I read it, I discovered many of the places mentioned in the book, were places from my earlier years too. It is a small world! 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.
Aug 29, 2019: Janet Dean | Author In High Heels and Beetle Crushers Jackie Skingley takes us with her as she comes of age as a newly commissioned officer in the Women’s Royal Army Corps of the 1960s. Be prepared to fall in love with this stunning young woman as every young man falls in love with her, not just because she has the willowy frame of a model and the good looks to match, but because she is a generous and loyal friend and companion, open to loving and being loved. Jackie’s warmth and adventurous spirit is on every page and we cry with her through the tragedy of loss and cry laughing at her hilarious scrapes and faux pas. I loved the attention to detail in this book, the way we are brought into the light of the 1960s after the dark days of wartime London through the interest of young women in fashion and music, and then taken into a completely new world of military procedure and etiquette when Jackie joins the WRAC - this book will absorb you from start to finish. Emotional, funny and sexy, a really enjoyable read.
Aug 30, 2019: Susan Keefe | Book Reviewer edit | delete Fascinating recollections of a bygone era. At the beginning of this powerful coming-of-age story, the author, Jackie Skingley, shares with her readers, her earliest bittersweet recollections of a special Christmas day in 1944, and her family’s joy at unexpected arrival on leave of her RAF Flight Lieutenant father. Her childhood memories were of a Britain at war, of normal home life being interrupted by the screech of air raid sirens, and the rush to their damp, musky shelter, listening with dread to the droning of the German bombers as they flew overhead along Bomb Alley, towards London… Like many other families, the price of peace was high, when her father was tragically killed in action, and life for Jackie, her mother, and her new baby brother inevitably changed forever. These memoirs portray a wonderful insight into life in post-war Britain, a time where families and friends pulled together with true community spirit. This was a time where the local bobby knew everyone, and mothers throughout the country could be found in their kitchens bottling, canning and making tasty filling meals for their families with anything which was available. For me this book rekindled my own childhood, watching my grandmother do the same, a few years on when the top of the fridge had bottles and cans of fruit and vegetables ready for winter, and an old chest of drawers contained her wonderful jams. I read with a touch of envy her nostalgic recollections of handmade taffeta dresses, gloves and beaded bags, and of her attending dances and balls with handsome beaus. My rose coloured glasses enabling me to overlook the strict etiquette demanded in those days. However post-war Britain was a time of great social change. Boundaries were being stretched by the younger generation, hungry for sexual freedom, and determined to live life to the full after horrors and restrictions of the two world wars. Through her vividly descriptive writing the author takes us on her own personal journey through these years, and, at a time when young ladies were expected to marry and have a family, she decided that she wanted a career, and so she joined the WRAC. This career path shaped her years to come bringing friends, love, laughter, but also incredible heartbreak. Bravely the author has shared her story in this compelling memoir, giving her reader a real insight into post-war Britain, and the spirit of its people, a spirit which is personified in the author herself, as she overcomes adversity, and defiantly stands resolute and true to herself, and those she loves.
Aug 29, 2019: Tom Atkins | Author An emotional and compelling story of a young lady's emergence into womanhood. A tale of love, tragedy and determination, competing in the male-dominated world of sixties England. A beautifully written narrative you will not want to put down. I want to be first in line for the sequel. Aug 29, 2019: Jan Reeves | Author, owner of Jan Reeves Consulting As soon as I heard about this memoir, I wanted to read it. A little later, I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy from the publisher. It didn't disappoint. I found it to be an evocative, nostalgic read. A social history. I couldn’t put it down. Jackie’s charming memoir starts during WW11 which I can easily relate to. Although not born until the early 50s, I grew up knowing that my Dad had been a Glider Pilot, a ‘Para’ or a ‘Red Devil’. Rationing was still a way of life and, during the whole of my childhood, almost everything that was said and done anywhere was related back to the war. Anyone whose life was impacted in any way by WW11 would find this a heartfelt social history. The memoir closes at the start of the swinging 60s which I clearly remember too as I emerged clumsily and awkwardly into my teens. I think anyone, men and women, who grew up in the 50s, 60s and even 70s would be interested to read this memoir and of course, it will be of huge interest to anyone who is serving or has served in the armed forces. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it to you