📚With ‘a dual timeline between 1939/1940 and 1964’. Georgia reviews novella Stolen Summers by @Annecdotist for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Georgia.

Georgia blogs here https://www.georgiarosebooks.com

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Georgia has been reading Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin

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

This novella is a prequel to Matilda Windsor is Coming Home, which I have not read, yet. It is told as a dual timeline between 1939/1940 and 1964.

Matilda is a victim of a particularly shameful period of history when unwed mothers had their babies taken away and could be locked away in a mental hospital, such as the one in this book, Ghyllside, accused of being morally defective.

This story is told from Matilda’s point of view and at the beginning she appears perfectly well balanced, despite having gone through the trauma of having her baby taken from her. She is optimistic and expects to be home and back with her adored brother within a week. Yet she is betrayed by those who should have looked after her. It is tragic to see her years later, as Matty, having become completely institutionalised but still with dreams of escape.

The thought of losing a quarter of a century to such a brutal regime seems utterly unbelievable and yet it happened and not that long ago in our history. This book is beautifully written and can be read as a standalone although I can see many readers wanting to read on to see what happens next for Matilda.

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 made me want to weep for Matilda’. @TerryTyler4 Reviews Novella Stolen Summers by @Annecdotist for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Terry.

Terry blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.com/

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Rosie’s Book Review Team

Terry has been reading Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin

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

4.5 out of 5 stars

For anyone who hasn’t read Matilda Windsor is Coming Home, do read this novella-length prequel first.  It centres around how, in the 1930s (and before, and a while after), unmarried girls who became pregnant were often sent to mental asylums – once inside, they would become institutionalised, some to spend their whole lives locked away.  Poor Matilda – the first scene, when she thinks she’s going home from the nunnery where she had her baby, but is in fact being driven to Ghyllside Hospital, is heartbreaking.  It made me want to reach out a hand and shout, ‘don’t go in!  Run!’


The book alternates between the outbreak of World War II, and the early 1960s, when she and her friend organise little escapades.  Alas, Matilda, already emotionally and mentally unstable because of her years at Ghyllside, cannot take on board how much the world has changed.  Finally, there is a chapter set in 1989 which, if I remember rightly, is how the main book starts.  By this time her mind is gone, though she is not unhappy in her fantasy world.

The book is so well-written, and I thoroughly enjoyed it all the way through, even though it made me want to weep for Matilda and the other women like her.  Highly recommended.

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 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

📚Set In A 20th Century Psychiatric Asylum. @OlgaNM7 Reviews Novella Stolen Summers by @Annecdotist for Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Today’s team review is from Olga.

Olga blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

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

Olga has been reading Stolen Summers by Anne Goodwin

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

I was lucky enough to read Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, the previous book Anne Goodwin wrote about the same character, Matilda, before its publication as well, and I was moved, saddened, touched, and delighted, all in one. A tragic story, made worse because, although fictional, it is not an uncommon one, and it bears witness to the many people who ended up spending their lives in the old psychiatric asylums, sometimes for reasons that had little to do with their mental health.

In this novella, which the author describes as a prequel, but, at least in my opinion, isn’t exactly that, we get to fill in some of the gaps of the previous book. This novella, although written in the third person (apart from some letters Matilda addresses to her brother, Henry, one of the characters who play a major part in the original novel) only has one narrator, Matilda herself, and it alternates two different periods of time: 1939-1940, exploring what happens when Matilda first arrives at Ghyllside Hospital, the trauma it supposes, and readers can start to see how and why her mind starts to unravel; and a particular day in 1964, when one outing with one of her friends and hospital peers, Doris, turns into a nightmare. We also get to see, though briefly, the consequences of that outing, and there is a chapter at the end, set in 1989, which functions as an epilogue, and links it directly with Matilda Windsor.

This novella shares the virtues of the previous book, and it bridges the possible gaps left by the other, as we get to see more of what Matilda experienced and share with her some of the terrible humiliations and spirit-breaking practices she had to suffer. Seeing her robbed of her dignity, ignored (at best) or abused, the subject of dubious psychiatric treatments and moral judgements, and experiencing loss, guilt, and repeated trauma, it is no surprise that her mind sought refuge in a fantasy world that granted her an important and grand role in life.

I loved the way the story puts readers in the shoes of the protagonist, and we get to live what happens through her own eyes: the fear, the trashed hopes, the moments of joy, the many disappointments, the companionship, the grief, the confusion… This is not an easy read, and I caution people who might have experienced or known similar events, as it is heartbreaking at times. The author also manages to include snippets about the historical and social events taking place in the UK during those eras. We hear about WWII and how the recruitment efforts reached even the psychiatric hospitals; we also hear about race relations and discrimination; domestic violence and its terrible consequences (Doris’s story brought tears to my eyes); changes in Mental Health law and in the understanding of mental illness definitions, classifications, and treatments… It is particularly telling to see how isolated and “protected” (in a certain way) the character is from the outside world, and how she can hardly recognise her own town when she goes back 25 years later. It is a sobering thought.

Although the story centres on Matilda, there are a few other characters we meet. Doctors (very few make an appearance, unsurprisingly considering how things were run at the time) and nurses are not identified by name, and seem interchangeable, not individualised, as they might have appeared to Matilda, for very good reasons. Other patients do have a more important part to play, and I adored Doris. She suffered a terrible loss, but she is a survivor, and she helps Matilda keep afloat and keep going. Some of her behaviours reminded me of many patients I have met over the years, but she is pretty unique.

The writing is as beautiful and poignant as in the previous book. Although there are no lengthy descriptions of people or places, the author manages to make us feel the sensations, the touch, notice the smells, and be gripped by fear and embarrassment as Matilda is. The characters’ expressions and turns of phrases are distinctive and reflect the era and the location, and the pass of time and the changes in social mores are brought to the fore by the way the story is narrated.

As I said, I am not sure this novella would work as a prequel, though. Having read the novel first, it is difficult to think how it would feel to read this one without knowing anything about the character beforehand. Part of the story in Matilda Windsor takes place before 1939, although the majority of the story is set many years later, right at the point where we leave Matilda and a new character is introduced in the novella. I can see how this narrative fits in neatly with the rest of the story, and I am sure that people who read it first will glean enough information from it to make an educated guess as to what is likely to have happened, and will be eager to find out the rest by reading the main novel. On the other hand, considering the way Matilda Windsor is constructed and told, I think the impact of reading the full novel and putting the pieces together might be lost if Stolen Summers is read first. Ultimately, both of them are fantastic, so the order in which they are read may well be a moot point.

Another great story by Anne Goodwin, and one I recommend to all who have read Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home. And to those who haven’t yet, but are interested in the topic, enjoy great characters, and a story that touches upon social justice with a focus on mental health, now you can choose, if you want, to read Stolen Summers first, but I am sure you will end up reading both of them. Highly recommended.

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