This was British author Wendy Robertson’s 21st novel. Prior to this she was best known for Victorian family sagas, this was a nod to more recent times and you can tell derives from some personal experience. Set in a factory in the fictional ex-mining Northern town of Grafton in the summer of 1965 where members of the management team decide to put into place a publicity stunt involving the presentation of a free cooker for the millionth Marvell customer and getting former Ford, Dagenham factory girl turned pop sensation Sandie Shaw to make that presentation.
This is the life of those on the shop floor and upstairs in the offices in the days leading up to Sandie’s arrival. Parts are narrated by central character Cassandra, a girl who has managed to make her escape and leave the town but who has come back for summer holidays from college. Her mother has got her a job on the lines at the factory where she and most of the rest of the town works. Cassandra goes from bloody-fingered raw recruit determined not to hold up the flow of the production line to becoming accepted as one of the team and finding romance as well. The book manages to be quite strongly character-led which I like. If a book like this was published in 2017 I think there would be a demand now for a more explicitly humorous stance which would put it in line with the more commercial chick-lit. Nine years ago you could get away with a book like this which straddles the lines between romance and saga with some humour. I think the characters would be expected to produce more laugh-out-loud moments in their everyday goings about. Friendships are strong as is the all-encompassing nature of factory life which dominates both working and social lives.
Sandie Shaw – arriving at Marvells?
I did really feel the anticipation of the impending pop star visit. The factory cannot afford Sandie Shaw to sing but hope she will turn up minus shoes and the whole place needs to be cleaned thoroughly to ensure she does not snag a toenail on the red carpet. There’s laughter, tears, infideleties, pregnancies, both wanted and unwanted and the book reads really quite well.
Wendy Robertson turned to writing full-time in 1989 after publishing her first four novels. Since “Sandie Shaw…” she has published another eight novels, her latest being “The Bad Child” from 2016. “Sandie Shaw…” is according to GoodReads her best known book and would be a good place to start with this author.
Sandie Shaw And The Millionth Marvell Cooker was first published by Headline in 2008. It is still available as a Kindle e-book and although the physical book is out of print can easily and cheaply be found on Amazon. I read a library hardback edition where a previous reader had been upset by the word “blond” to refer to female hair and went through with a ball-point adding the extra “e” every time it appeared.