Title: Pattern of Shadows
Author: Judith Barrow
Genre: Family Saga, Historical Fiction
Mary is a nursing sister at Lancashire prison camp for the housing and treatment of German POWs. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling, life at home a constant round of arguments, until Frank Shuttleworth, a guard at the camp turns up. Frank is difficult to love but persistent and won't leave until Mary agrees to walk out with him.
Book 1 of 3 in Howarth Family Saga (3 Book Series)
'Ok, have it your own way but I'm telling you, I saw him with this other girl. If you don't believe me, ask him yourself.' Mary lifted up the blouse and wrung it out; her voice strained with the effort as she said loudly. 'Ask him … ask him tonight. I presume you are going out with him again later?’
…. Her sister's next words shocked her. 'Who cares? Al's asked me to marry him like I always said he would, so there. He says he'll take me to America.'
Mary whirled round from the sink. 'Oh Ellen!'
'Oh Ellen,' she imitated Mary's voice, flipping the magazine closed. 'For your information he loves me, he gets me anything I want from the Post Exchange, stockings, nail varnish. Even perfume. When was the last time a bloke bought you perfume, Mary?'
'Buying stuff from the army shop doesn't mean he loves you, you idiot,' Mary flared at Ellen's last sentence.’If you think you're going to be a GI bride you've another think coming.'
Ellen stood up, rolling the magazine in her hands. 'And you're just a dried up old spinster. If you must know I've signed on for a lecture on … on transatlantic customs at the town hall. I'm going to be the best wife that I can be for Al.' She flounced up the stairs.
Mary lowered the clothes rack from the ceiling and folded the blouse over the bars. 'Dad's going to hit the roof,' she muttered.
'Dad'll hit the roof, Jean.'
They trod carefully over the long grass that had spilled from each side of the path and now lay flattened and slimy underfoot. Mottled grey clouds, filled with more rain, brooded low in the sky. The canal moved slowly, sucking up debris from the banking as it floated.
'Do you think she's told your mother?'
'Doubt it, no … Mam would have told me. No, Ellen will keep this plan close to her chest.' Mary remembered the last time her sister had attempted to leave home; the offer of the job in that London theatre two years ago had caused major ructions. In the end her father had won. Mary always wondered if Ellen's wildness had worsened because of that. She’d had one dream thwarted; she wouldn’t let it happen again.
'Will you talk to her about it?'
'Mam? Yes, suppose I'll have to sometime. Can't say I'm looking forward to it, though.'
'Well it's not really your problem, is it?'
'You can bet Ellen won't be around to make it hers. She'll scarper like she always does.'
'Then you'll have to do the same.' Jean said.
'Chance'd be a fine thing,' Mary grumbled. She picked up some stones from the path and skimmed them, one by one, across the water. She watched the ripples circle outwards. 'What am I going to do, Jean? Ellen won't listen to anything I say these days.'
'Look, you've done your best. She'll have to make her own mistakes. She'll come round eventually.'
'It won't come to that, trust me. She'll have to wait until after the war anyway. According to Marion’s mother next door but one to us … you know Marion Cartwright?' Mary shook her head. 'The one with big teeth …'
'Well she's been told they won't let their servicemen take British girls back to the States just like that, even if they are married. The men will go home first and then it'll take months of paperwork, all sorts of forms, to get permission and what have you. Ellen will have got fed up with the idea long before then.'
'It would be nice to think you're right.'
'Nothing has been right since that first time I saw her with Al.'
'Well, I think you did the right thing then and all.' Jean looked upwards.' It's going to rain again; we'd better get a move on.' They quickened their steps. 'One of the few things Frank Shuttleworth was useful for, if you ask me.'
'I was glad of Frank at the time, true enough.'
'Talking of the devil, have you seen him lately?'
A man on a bicycle rang his bell behind them. Mary flinched. Jean cocked her head to one side. 'You're jumpy.'
They stood to one side to let the cyclist pass. He raised his cap to them. 'Ladies,' and pressed harder on the pedals, his gas mask and 'snap' bag bumping together on his back.
Jean persisted. 'Mary? You ok? I said have you seen Frank lately?'
Mary linked arms with her and sighed. 'Everywhere, Jean, I swear he's following me. Yesterday I was in the queue at the butcher's and he was stood right behind me; pushing up against me.'
'Now that is your problem. So … what are you going to do?'
'Nothing. What can I do? Last week, when I was going to work he trailed behind me all the way. I knew he wasn't on shift … I'd changed so I wouldn't see him … and there he was. Every time I stopped, so did he, I told him what I thought of him but he just laughed at me. Honestly Jean, he's giving me the creeps.' Mary didn't tell her friend about the whispered threats each time he came near her, or the way he looked at her.
'I'll tell Patrick.' Jean said, 'he'll deal with him.'
'No!' Mary was adamant. 'No Jean. I'll deal with it. Frank wouldn't let Patrick get away with another beating; he'd get some of his mates behind him. I don't want you two to get involved again. Ok?'
'Ok.' Jean pursed her lips.
They stopped at the steps leading up to Skirm. 'Let's get home,' Mary said, 'we're both on earlies tomorrow. She heard a scuffle of stones further down the path. As she looked back a man disappeared into the bushes, but she knew Frank meant her to see him.
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Pattern of Shadows is the first of the Haworth trilogy, following the family from 1944 through to 1969. The book has been described as gritty, but with all the love and loyalties all families strive for. As one reader wrote after reading all three books: “But real life doesn’t include very many happy-ever-afters, and the Howarths have to live with the aftermath of the secrets each of them has kept. The weight of those secrets is revealed in their effect on the next generation, the children of the Howarth siblings. The battle between those secrets and their family bonds is a desperate one, because the life of a child hangs in the balance.”
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Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines, has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for over forty years.
She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David's College, Carmarthen. BA (Hons) in Literat