Excerpt from The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The White Lady

A Novel

by Jacqueline Winspear

The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear X
The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2023, 336 pages

    Mar 12, 2024, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Lady Luck remained at their side. In short order their new landlady, Mrs. Butler, told them a local farmer had just lost a worker, the silly old whatsit having ruptured himself so he couldn't do the job anymore. The absent worker was getting on in years anyway, so the farmer knew it was coming, and what with first losing men to the army and then the land girls demobilized, she said it looked like Jim had turned up in Shacklehurst at the right time because the farmer needed a hand with the cattle and sheep, and had let the word out that he was looking for a strong bloke who would put his back into anything asked of him. Mind you, the gossip was that every last job on the farm would be asked of him.

The family walked a mile and a half along the road and then on a woodland path through a few acres of pine forest to find Mr. Wicks, the farmer. He was a plain-talking man who took Jim inside the farmhouse and made it clear he would brook no shirking, adding, with a shake of the head, that an aversion to hard work was half the trouble with Fred, the worker who had ruptured himself. Old Fred had forgotten how to lift something heavy because every day of his working life he had done his best to avoid it. "No muscle, that was his problem," said Wicks, reaching across the table to feel Jim's bicep. He nodded approval. Jim swore he was as strong as an ox, that he knew cattle and sheep inside and out and could drive a tractor—driving being his specialty. Oh yes, driving was definitely Jim's specialty. An awful lot of blokes from his part of London thought well of his skill behind the wheel.

Jim landed the job. A tied cottage went with it, though the two-bedroom accommodation needed a coat or three of paint, and there were vermin to be evicted. That was nothing to Jim—he'd come face-to-face with pests who were a lot more trouble than a few rats or mice. As he emerged from the farmhouse, having shaken hands with the farmer, adding that yes, he'd be ready to start work at six the following morning, Jim opened his arms, ready to embrace his wife and daughter. "Nice work if you can get it, Rosie, and I've got it! And guess what? The missus in there needs a hand with a bit of cleaning a couple of mornings a week. You up for it?"

Of course she was up for it. So there they were, settled, with no furniture, no pots and pans and no crockery. Then Mrs. Butler said she had some old china she could let them have, and by the way, could Rose help her out on Saturday afternoons, because it was when day trippers came out to the country and rolled in for a cup of tea and a cream bun or scones after they'd had a walk through the forest, which meant she was run off her feet and could hardly keep up. Jim worked Saturday mornings, so it all fell into place—he'd look after Susie when he returned to the cottage at one o'clock, while Rose brought home some pin money in the evening. Every little bit helped. Now they had a roof over their heads, they had work and they would get the other bits and bobs to make their house a home as they went along.

That was over a year ago now, and they hadn't seen any family since—which was alright with Rose. Not that she had much in the way of family. She had been evacuated to Sussex at the end of August 1939, just before war was declared, and was living with her foster family when everything in her world changed. The billeting officer came to the door to tell her that her mum, dad and two brothers—who were fifteen and sixteen, old enough to remain in London and work, but with not enough years on them for the army—had perished when a bomb came down on the house while they were halfway through dinner. There they were, Mum, Dad, Andy and Bill, minding their own business, eating sausages with mashed-up turnips and a few peas, when, boom! Now they were on the other side.

She'd gone to live with a maiden aunt as soon as she turned fourteen—working age—just a few months later. Rose, Andy and Bill had been close in years. Her dad always joked that her mum hadn't seen her feet for a good while, what with those babies coming one after the other. Her brother Bill earned himself a clip around the ear when he grinned and said, "And whose fault was that, Dad?" Rose missed her family, truth be told.

Excerpted from The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear. Copyright © 2023 by Jacqueline Winspear. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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