📚’The story is beautifully written and the characters brought to life fully’. @CathyRy reviews Stolen Summers by @Annecdotist for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Cathy.

Cathy blogs here https://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Cathy has been reading Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin.

Book cover for Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin
Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin

After Matilda (Matty) Windsor became pregnant, she was taken to a home for unmarried mothers and forced to give her baby up for adoption. When she left she didn’t know she wouldn’t be going home again. She was taken to Ghyllside Hospital and left there. Matty initially had no idea Ghyllside was a mental institution. She had no idea why her father would let her be taken there or why she had to stay. Her upbringing meant she was quite naive and had no experience of the wider world.

Matty’s story is tragic but not uncommon during the dark days when unmarried mothers were classed as ‘moral defectives’ and more often than not treated with unbelievable mental and physical cruelty.

‘Not all the nuns were cruel. Some of the younger ones would address the girls kindly if Mother Superior were out out earshot. So Matilda counted her blessings when Sister Bernadette slipped onto the seat beside her in the taxicab, while a sombre man with a box-shaped head took the passenger seat at the front. He resembled a tradesman in his white cotton coat worn over an ordinary jacket and trousers; Matilda assumed the nuns had offered him a lift out of charity. He wasn’t introduced.’

Matty’s main concern was her six year old brother who she knew would be missing her, and wrote to him religiously over the years. Meanwhile as Matty tries to make sense of, and come to terms with her situation, she makes an unlikely friend in Doris, her polar opposite. Her friendship with Doris (and Eustace, who has his own story and is also very likeable) and Matty’s underlying determination not to see herself as mad or bad, helped to ease her sadness and rage at the injustices she suffered and see her through.

Stolen Summers is the hard hitting prequel to Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, which is in my to be read pile. I can’t wait to read it after this. This short story alternates between the years 1939/40 and 1964 when attitudes regarding unmarried mothers thankfully had begun to change.

The story is beautifully written and the characters brought to life fully so you can’t help but be drawn to Matty and Doris in particular, while exploring a horrific time in the not too distant past.

Orange rose book description
Book description

All she has left is her sanity. Will the asylum take that from her too?

In 1939, Matilda is admitted to Ghyllside hospital, cut off from family and friends. Not quite twenty, and forced to give up her baby for adoption, she feels battered by the cruel regime. Yet she finds a surprising ally in rough-edged Doris, who risks harsh punishments to help her reach out to the brother she left behind.

Twenty-five years later, the rules have relaxed, and the women are free to leave. How will they cope in a world transformed in their absence? Do greater dangers await them outside?

The poignant prequel to Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is a tragic yet tender story of a woman robbed of her future who summons the strength to survive.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

📚The Lost Years Spent In A Psychological Institution. Frank reviews Stolen Summers by @Annecdotist for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Frank.

Find out more about Frank here https://franklparker.com/

Orange rose and Rosie's Book Review Team
Rosie’s Book Review Team

Frank has been reading Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin

Book cover for Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin
Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin

Ms Goodwin’s previous book, which I also reviewed for Rosie Amber, dealt with the issue of gender transition. The author’s background is as a practising psychologist. Stolen Summers is an exploration of life for inmates in mental institutions in England during the middle of the twentieth century. It is set in Northern England with chapters alternating between 1939 and 1964. This enables her to highlight differences in attitudes towards the mentally ill over the quarter century.

The central protagonists, Matty and Doris, are beautifully realised. Matty is middle class. She has had elocution lessons. Unfortunately her education has taught her nothing about how to survive in the world outside her insular community. Pregnant at 19 she has brought shame to her family. After the child is born in a home run by nuns and adopted, she is taken to an institution called Ghyllside. There she yearns for family life and is anxious about the welfare of her beloved six-year-old brother. Most of the other inmates seem hostile.

Doris, in particular, coming from a very different background, is scornful of the posh girl with her airs and graces. But she has been incarcerated in Ghyllside for long enough to become familiar with the routines and the pecadilloes of the staff. She takes Matty under her wing and the pair become firm friends.

The book follows their lives in Ghyllside, the small pleasures they enjoy, like the weekly dance, and the brutality of the ‘treatment’ to which inmates are subjected whenever they stray from the tightly controlled regime during the war years.

We also meet an Afro-Caribbean veteran of the first world war and learn of the racist violence such men encountered in the aftermath of that conflict.

What happens when, in 1964, the two friends are allowed out to attend a circus, is life changing for Matty.

Young women who were routinely incarcerated merely for having become pregnant, whatever the circumstance, had no opportunity to gain experience of real life. Both Matty and Doris are as naive in 1964 as they were in 1939, although throughout the book Doris has a better grasp on reality. But the world has changed beyond recognition, as has the way mental patients are treated by society.

My only problem with this book is that it seems too short. I would like to have seen more about the circumstances in which Matty became pregnant and her emotional reaction to them. Towards the end there are chapters that take us forward by another 25 years, to 1989, when Tilly is 70 and society’s view of women like her has changed yet again. It would have been good to have seen more of this part of her story. The book ends with taster chapters from the sequel which suggest it will provide that. I can’t wait to read it.

Orange rose book description
Book description

All she has left is her sanity. Will the asylum take that from her too?

In 1939, Matilda is admitted to Ghyllside hospital, cut off from family and friends. Not quite twenty, and forced to give up her baby for adoption, she feels battered by the cruel regime. Yet she finds a surprising ally in rough-edged Doris, who risks harsh punishments to help her reach out to the brother she left behind.

Twenty-five years later, the rules have relaxed, and the women are free to leave. How will they cope in a world transformed in their absence? Do greater dangers await them outside?

The poignant prequel to Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is a tragic yet tender story of a woman robbed of her future who summons the strength to survive.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

‘It was so tragic, so shocking’. @TerryTyler4 reviews #LiteraryFiction Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by @Annecdotist

Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin

4.5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, which is both entertaining and incredibly sad.  It is set mostly in 1989/90, with flashbacks to the 1930s, and Matty Osborne, also known as Matilda Windsor, has been a resident in psychiatric hospitals for fifty years – since she was around twenty.  The reason given at the time was ‘moral turpitude’ – in other words, becoming pregnant without being married.  I remember seeing something on television once, a long time ago, about how, in the first half of this century, young girls who were committed to asylums for getting pregnant, and were never let out again.  In this circumstance, Matty eventually lost her mind; her path to this state is not revealed until the end of the book.


She believes that she is in her own stately home – sometimes during the Great War, at other times during World War II – that the other residents are her guests, and the carers are her staff.  The story weaves between three points of view: Matty, a young carer called Janice, and Matty’s younger half-brother Henry who doesn’t know where she is or why she left home.  The staff of Tuke House have no idea whatsoever what goes on in Matty’s head, or probably within the head of any of the residents.  Janice is likable and fun, and I enjoyed the portrayals of the people she worked with, most of them ghastly, grey jobsworths with limited imagination.  She is very much a young woman of the Thatcher years with anti-Thatcher ideals; I felt such a sense of going back over 3 decades when I read about her.


I guessed early on what had led to Matty’s dreadful fate, but it’s not obvious, and I did change my mind a few times; either way, the fact that we don’t know ‘how, who and why’ adds to the page-turning quality of the book.  When I got to the end of her 1930s story, I could have cried at how alone she was, how there was no-one, anywhere, who would listen to and believe her.  It was so tragic, so shocking, made even more so because you know that this sort of thing happened to so many girls, never mind the stories of some of her friends in the unmarried mothers’ home. 


Another element that adds to the suspense is Henry’s search for the long lost sister he hardly remembers, and all the near misses when he could have found her but didn’t.  They’re frustrating; each time I though, oh, they’re going to find each other!


I found this book particularly interesting because I’ve worked at a psychiatric hospital in the past, and because I was reminded of my late mother, who had Alzheimer’s for eleven years and lived in a care home for the last seven or so years of her life.  I visited her often; I remember her being under the impression that the place was a hotel, and the carers were waitresses.


Although this story has a certain amount of resolution, I gather there is to be a sequel.  I admit to being a little disappointed as I expected to get to the end and have everything nicely wrapped up – but life isn’t like that, and the stories of Matty, Janice and Henry will continue.  I look forward to reading the next book when it appears!

Desc 1

In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.

Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.

As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.

Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.

A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?

In this, her third novel, Anne Goodwin has drawn on the language and landscapes of her native Cumbria and on the culture of long-stay psychiatric hospitals where she began her clinical psychology career.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #LiteraryFiction Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by @Annecdotist

Today’s team review is from Robbie. She blogs here https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Robbie has been reading Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by [Anne Goodwin]

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home provides an interesting insight into life in a mental asylum in the UK at a time when policy was moving away from institutionalization and towards integration of patients back into community life. It was an even more intriguing peep into the mind of Matilda Windsor or Tilly, who had become known as Matty Osborne.

Janice is a newly qualified social worker who has pursued a job opportunity at a mental asylum which, at the time, was within commuting distance of her boyfriend’s flat. In the intervening period between making her application and attending the interview, her relationship has broken down and she is now reluctantly single again. The job doesn’t seem like such a good idea any more, but during the interview process, Janice meets Matty and is very intrigued by her. She takes the job.

Henry is a single man living in his family home. He is in a long-term relationship with a married woman who won’t leave her husband and live with him because of his obsession with his sister, Tilly Windsor, who left home 50 years previously and whom he lives in hope will return some day. Henry has a number of keep sakes that were given him by Tilly when she left and he keeps her old bedroom exactly as it was before she left. He has no idea what happened to Tilly when she left or why she has never returned to him.

The character of Matty was intriguing and those parts of the story that were narrated through her eyes reflected her delusional thoughts. Matty believes she is living through World War II and that she is a great lady living in a mansion and attended by servants. She sees the caregivers and medical personal at the asylum as being her personal staff and imagines them to be her personal maid, butler, and in other domestic roles about her home. Matty believes the other inmates are people she is giving shelter to because they have lost their homes due to the war.

It was most interesting to read her thoughts and conversations from this perspective. Janice is very taken with Matty and wants to help her find her family and manage to remain with the programme for integration into the community. Having being given insight through the style of writing into Matty’s confused mind, it seemed obvious to me as a reader, that Matty was not suited to the programme and would never manage to stand even partially on her own two feet. The hold her delusions had on her mind and behaviour were far to strong.

As the story unfolds, the other staff can also see that Matty is not a very good candidate but Janice cannot be swayed from her hope that Matty will find her family and her sanity will be redeemed. Janice is aware of the unfortunate circumstances that surrounded Matty’s admission into the asylum in the first instance and they had nothing to do with a mental condition.

This is a very poignant tale as Matty’s story is gradually revealed and the abuse she has suffered becomes known. As her story unwinds, Janice is forced to face her own relationship problems, issues with her sister and adoptive parents, and uncertainty about her job.

Henry is also compelled to confront his obsession with the past and decide whether his dreams of being reunited with Tilly are more important that the woman he loves.

This is a compelling book and is well written, although this is not a book you can cruise or skim through, it is a book that you need to sit down and focus on to appreciate the great skill of the writer and the complex story.

Desc 1

In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.

Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.

As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.

Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.

A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?

In this, her third novel, Anne Goodwin has drawn on the language and landscapes of her native Cumbria and on the culture of long-stay psychiatric hospitals where she began her clinical psychology career.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home by [Anne Goodwin]