KATE THOMPSON - BRINGING HISTORY ALIVE
Today I welcome the lovely author, Kate Thompson to my blog and am showcasing her new book
THE STEPNEY DOORSTEP SOCIETY
READ ON TO ENJOY MINE AND KATE'S INTERVIEW AND MY REVIEW OF HER WONDERFUL BOOK - NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK - click on book to see on Amazon
INTERVIEW WITH Kate Thompson – and a competition – rules at the end – to win one of her signed books.
So lovely to welcome you once more to my blog, Kate, and thank you for taking the time to chat with us.
I know that a lot of the followers on my website are your followers too, but there are many who aren’t and I hope they will be after meeting you here, however, for them, would you start by telling us a little about yourself?
Kate: Hi Mary, thanks so much for welcoming me to your page. Well, I’m a journalist, a ghostwriter, an author and a mum of two very lively boys (are there any other kind?) Though these days I seem to spend more time writing books set during WW2 than magazine or newspaper articles. Over the past five years – like you Mary – I’ve developed a passion for uncovering the lives of wartime women. Most days, once I’ve dropped the boys to school, sees me travel back to the 1940s to immerse myself in wartime life.
Mary: Your novels are so well loved, and this dedication and research shows in your novels, but this book is a little different, in that it isn’t fiction, but the stories of real people who experienced life in the East End of London during the war. How amazing to have met them. Can you give us a couple of examples of their stories here?
Kate: It’s amazing to finally be able to put the women I’ve interviewed as research for my novels, centre stage in a book of their own. Women like Dr Joan Martin, who was one of handful of female medics to train as a doctor during the Blitz and during the bombings saved life after life, moonlighting by night as an ambulance driver. Or what about beautiful Beatty? Born on the seventh day of the seventh month, 1917, Beatty Orwell is the oldest woman in the book, but still possesses a razor-sharp mind and humour. Born in the Jewish quarter around Petticoat Lane, Beatty cannot remember a time when she was not political. Forced to defend herself against violent, fascist blackshirts who roamed the East End Jew-baiting, she joined the anti-fascist party aged 19 (behind her mother’s back) and was amongst the 250,000 strong crowd who turned out to defend their streets at what became known as the Battle of Cable Street, a watershed moment in the resistance against racism in the East End. She also memorably remembers heckling and chasing fascist-supporter Unity Mitford through Hyde Park in the 1930s. One of my favourite characters is sprightly and formidable, 84-year-old Girl Walker who was born in Stepney in 1933 and is ferociously proud to be a cockney. The daughter of a butcher and a fishmonger, Girl Walker is the seventh generation of strong cockney women to be born in Stepney, and she has no intention of ever leaving her beloved neighbourhood. ‘The only way I’m leaving the East End is in a box,’ she insists. There are SO many fascinating women crammed into this book. Their stories are the ones missing from the history books.
Mary: I loved the book. You brought the stories of these women alive. What is it about the East End that fascinates you, do you have a connection to there?
Kate: This is a hard one to explain Mary, there is no link whatsoever beyond the fact that the more I learn about East End history and the more wartime East Enders I meet, the more I fall in love with the streets and their inhabitants. Someone once told me I’m an “honorary cockney” which is very flattering. I definitely think in a previous life I was a potty-mouthed, cockney machinist, lol! Jokes aside, I just feel an affinity to these women, coupled with huge empathy and admiration for the way they take life on.
Mary: So pleased you had this honour and so deserved. Being a journalist, did you find the research for this book different to when you are digging out any other story you want to share with the public through the newspaper media?
Kate: Yes, this is far more personal and intimate a relationship. When you research a magazine or newspaper article you spend a couple of weeks on it, at most, then move on to the next thing, but I spent years getting to know these women and researching their life and times. The hard bit has actually come to be, when to stop!
Mary: I can imagine. The book shows your commitment and the love you have for these lovely folk and the time you must have put in, but the life of a working mum is all about juggling and sacrifices. Given that we know what your priorities are as a mum, what is the one thing you wouldn’t sacrifice that is a ‘purely for you indulgence’?
Kate: Yoga. Sounds very dull and virtuous I know, but it’s the only thing that stills my racing brain and helps me to sleep.
Mary: I must try it. And now for one of my favourite questions: Imagine you are giving a dinner party and can ask five famous people – living or dead, who would you ask and why?
Kate: Ooh such a tough question. The strike committee of the Bryant & May match women of 1888. These tough women, forced to work in the most abysmal conditions, which lead to phossy jaw, walked into the history books when they downed tools and went on strike. It was absolutely ground breaking and intensely courageous thing to do, so I’d love to meet these women who were apparently inordinately fond of a feathered hat and a gin. My kind of women!
Kate Thompson, my namesake would be my second guest. One of the reasons I started writing books set in the East End was when I found out a woman who shared my name died in the Bethnal Green Tube Disaster in 1943. The more I researched, the more I discovered what a tough matriarch she was who lead a rent strike and looked after all the kids and women in her Bethnal Green tenement. With all these strong East End women around the table I think we’d have to have Tom Hardy there, whom I think could hold his own with them, plus he’s the most handsome man on the planet! I also have a fascination for Marilyn Munroe, such a beautiful and flawed woman. Can I also invite Winston Churchill and both my late grandmothers? That would be some gathering! Thanks Mary for the brilliant questions.
Mary: Wow, can I come too, Kate? What a brilliant line up.
It's been lovely chatting with you. Thank you so much, Kate.
MY REVIEW OF THE STEPNEY DOORSTEP SOCIETY
This wonderful book brings history alive. Its title is so apt as we learn how important the doorstep was to the women of the East End of London in years gone by.
Their first job in the morning was to clean their doorstep and the surrounding pavement - all vying with each other to be the first one outside with brush and mop at the ready - woe betide the woman who was late to this chore - she was called some choice names!
The doorstep was also a place to have a gossip, to make friends and to put the world to rights. It was where matriarchs were established, and the business minded became money lenders. Where advice was sought and given, and the entrance to a welcome to all.
The Stepney Doorstep Society takes you into the heart of this community that thrived by the strength of the women you will meet. It showcases their sense of humour, and their backbone when most needed. Like me you will come to love them all. And to love this book too. I have read it twice and still keep picking it up to be inspired by these wonderful women.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good, heart-warming story. Within the pages of The Stepney Doorstep Society you will hear not one, but many true life accounts of a part of our history that we should never forget - the months that our capital city was bombarded with bombs and how this very special part of it, The East End, suffered more than most. And how its, salt of the earth people, took it all in their stride.
WIN * WIN * WIN A COPY OF THE STEPNEY DOORSTEP SOCIETY SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR KATE THOMPSON
ALL YOU HAVE TO DO TO BE IN WITH A CHANCE OF WINNING IS TO LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG ANSWERING THIS QUESTION:
WHAT CAREER HAS KATE FOLLOWED AS WELL AS BEING AN AUTHOR?
The winner will be chosen by Random.Org. an online facility for choosing competition winners.
Good luck and thank you so much for visiting my blog.
Much love and thanks, Mary x
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