The Women’s Pages by Victoria Purman

Lee and Victoria weren’t the only ones to love The Women’s Pages… Here is what the QBD crew thought:

‘The Women’s Pages’ is an insightful view into the experiences of post-war Australian women from the bestselling author of ‘The Land of Girls’. Victoria Purman latest novel follows the lives of two women, Tilly Galloway and Mary Smith, whose husbands are being held in a POW camp in South East Asia. While Mary’s husband Bert returns to Australia albeit a changed man, Tilly’s husband Archie is missing. Eager to start a family, Tilly holds onto hope via the one postcard she received from Archie, yet hope for his return quickly dissipates.

Set in Sydney at the end of WW2, historical facts from the era are abundant within this fictional tale that takes a deep into important historical perspectives of the period. Purman delivers a sincere and genuine insight into the effects of war on those who fought on the front line and the women who stayed behind to run the country.

News of POW internment in Changi reaches Tilly, a secretary turned fill-in war correspondent at the Daily Herald. She learns about the possible fate of her husband and like many women who were called on to fill roles traditionally held by men, Tilly’s new position offered her newfound independence and a strong determination for change.  Coupled with the changing face of society and the battle to challenges the traditional role of women, Tilly is eager to continue her writing after the war but she is instead relegated to the Women’s Pages to cover recipes, fashion and make-up.

Tilly’s frustration with her situation and the world around her is felt throughout the novel. Purman’s exploration of mental illness is a dominate theme. Similarly, Tilly’s father is among the wharfies who strike over untenable conditions and inadequate wages, providing an insight into the Union movement. ‘The Women’s Pages’ is a captivating narrative delivered within an incredibly detailed historical fiction.

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