I guessed Britt Skrabenek’s third book was going to be good. What I wasn’t expecting was to be taken on quite such a roller coaster. It starts a little jerkily with four main characters and three time frames but it soon gathers pace and takes the reader on a great ride.

We follow three young women playing professional baseball together in the 1940s, full of hope and joie de vivre. Nothing can stop them and they form a bond which, though soon broken, is to be re-formed later. The try-out day is portrayed with dash and humour as the ‘girlies’ are discarded and only those with toughness and talent, including the three protagonists Lippy, Toots and Farm Girl, make the grade.Nola Fran Evie

But inevitably the good times end and the women go their separate ways into the real world. Life changes them. Love is won and lost. It is 1950s America which has just seen the landmark Brown v Board of Education court ruling desegregating black and white students. Here Britt’s research comes into its own with its intimate portrayal of Chicago life of the time. She specialises in fashions and her characters, male and female jump right off the page. Through her characters the author deals with relationships and the hopes and fears that go with them. Inter-racial relationships are examined in the light of attitudes of the day.

There are some beautifully worked passages. I loved the drive-in movie scene with Nola and her son. I was glad, at the end of Chapter 26 I wasn’t reading in public – I was in floods and had to take a break.

Whether intentional or not I saw the modern day character Jacks as an extension of the author herself in an omniscient role, together with mental cat. And it is through Jacks that it all came together at the end with an awesomeness that had me gasping.

Meticulously researched, humorous, poignant, entertaining. Britt’s best work yet.

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