Ruby is always hungry, but she will go without if it means her young brothers can eat. 1930s Bermondsey might be called the larder of London, with its pie, pickle and jam factories, but for the poor working classes, starvation is often only a heartbeat away.
When Ruby's neighbour suggests she ought to go to the Methodist Mission for free food, Ruby knows her father will be furious, but that she has no other option.
It is a decision that will change the course of her life forever, split her family and in the end lead her to face a terrible choice between duty and a great love.
Mary Gibson was born and brought up in Bermondsey, where both her grandmother and mother were factory girls. She is the author of the bestselling Custard Tarts and Broken Hearts, which was selected for World Book Night in 2015, and three other novels, Jam and Roses, Gunner Girls and Fighter Boys and Bourbon Creams and Tattered Dreams. marygibsonauthor.co.uk @MaryGibsonBooks
Heartwarming and gritty, the story of a factory girl in Bermondsey through World War 1.
They call them custard tarts – the girls who work at the Pearce Duff custard and jelly factory. But now the custard tarts are up in arms, striking for better conditions. Among them is Nellie Clark, trying to hold her family together after the death of her mother. She has the most desperate struggle to make ends meet, often going hungry to feed her little brothers.
Two men vie for Nellie's love. One is flamboyant, confident and a chancer. The other is steady, truthful and loyal. But the choice is not as easy as it might seem.
Looming over them all – over Bermondsey, over the factory, over the custard tarts and their lives and loves – is the shadow of the First World War. And that will change everything and everyone.
May is known to her family as the homing pigeon because of her uncanny sense of direction. She will need it when a bombing raid destroys nearly everything she holds dear. With her home in ruins, she joins the ATS and becomes a gunner girl. Here she finds dangerous work, new friends and rivals – and painful choices in love.
May's elder sister, Peggy, is trapped in a stifling marriage to a small-time crook. Amid the chaos of war, a route to freedom suddenly beckons and, along with it, new and passionate love. From the melting pot of war will come hardship and tragedy, as well as new, unexpected friendships and love affairs.
Handsome Frank Rossi took Matty Gilbie away from her working class roots in Bermondsey, East London and promised her fame and fortune. In America, the Cockney Canary would become a movie star. As his wife, she would be half of a power couple, fêted and adored by all. But the Wall Street Crash of 1929 puts paid to all that, and as Frank becomes more violent and unstable, Matty flees in the dead of night.
Once home in Bermondsey, she goes into hiding and starts desperately looking for work. But only Peak Freans, the hated biscuit factory, is hiring staff. Then, as a secret from her past comes back to haunt her, Matty learns that Frank is on the move, determined to find her and get her back.