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 the 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 to her, to embarking on a path of recovery.
I was asked to read this memoir by Jackie herself after she followed me on twitter. I’ve come to know her as a kind woman who’s passionate about her book so while I’ve been excited about reading it, I’ve also been apprehensive as I will only give honest reviews and was hoping it would be as delightful as the woman herself. I needn’t have worried. High Heels and Beetle Crushers is a charming and fascinating memoir filled with entertaining and heart-rending stories.
It begins with an air raid siren blasting in 1944 when Jackie is just three years old. Seeing an air raid through the eyes of a young child felt particularly poignant. We also learn that this particular night her father, Flight Lieutenant Jack Skingley, is killed along with thousands of others from his regiment during an air raid in Germany. From there we follow her through childhood, adolescence and becoming a young woman determined to spread her wings and find adventure and independence. We watch her discover boys, begin her first relationship, fall head over heels in love, move out for her first job and settle on a career that she loves.
Jackie has plenty of colourful anecdotes to share alongside the more emotional stories. She’s been through a lot and there were many times I was fighting tears as my heart broke for what she went through. But what came through time and again is her indomitable strength and resilience in the face of everything. Her tenderness for most of those recalled in the book is in every word she writes, as does her distaste for those who, quite frankly, deserve it.
I was born in 1979 and the world has changed dramatically in the time I’ve been alive. There’s things I remember being normal that are alien to my children, so it was interesting to read a memoir where even more has changed in that person’s lifetime and be reminded how recent it was that homosexuality was made legal, sexual attitudes changed, how differently women were viewed and the less options they had. For instance, she talks about how her mother had to put up with her lot in life when she found herself in an abusive marriage due to the social stigma of divorce. As someone who’s divorced an abusive husband this made me once again incredibly thankful it was in a time when there isn’t that stigma and people encourage you to become free of abusive relationships.
I would highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a compelling, entertaining and quick read. It will make you laugh, make you angry, make you fight tears, but it will also teach you things and make you think. I would also recommend it for fans of things like Call The Midwife or Land Girls. I don’t read many memoirs but I’m glad I read this one and can’t wait for the follow up.
Thank you to Jackie Skingley and John Hurt Publishing Ltd for the e-Book ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Published December 14th.