On 4 August 1914, England declared war on Germany, and the War to End All Wars commenced. Patriotism pervaded the country, prompted by fife and drum corps marching through the city streets. Between 4 August and 12 September, the military held massive voluntary recruitment efforts. A total of 478,893 men joined the army during those two months. It is during one of these patriotic parades that the novel, A Stitch in Time, by Beryl Kingston, begins.
On the wall of a simple home in southeast London hangs a sampler stitched by a dearly departed mother, advising her five orphaned children to “Live with dignity.” And that is what Rose Boniface and her siblings try to do.
When the recruitment parade marches by, Rose’s elder brother heeds the call to arms. With their brother off to war, Rose and her siblings must do what they can to support the war effort and make ends meet, including undertaking dangerous work in a munitions factory and drudging domestic work at the mansion down the road.
Unfortunately, the war does not go well for England. More and more soldiers die in battle, and new recruits are needed. On 27 January 1916, Britain began conscripting young men into service. Rose’s younger brother is called up, leaving the three sisters to struggle alone.
But this latest blow does not break Rose Boniface. Taking up her needle, she stitches her way to riches, and together, she and her sisters rise above the ravages of war and pull themselves out of poverty.
A Stitch in Time is a tale of fortitude, ingenuity, and perseverance. Although I enjoyed reading this book, I did find a couple of items implausible. First, I doubt that a woman with an Eliza Doolittle accent would be welcomed into the ranks of England’s upper crust. Also, the discord and derision between the members of the “big house”—with their entitled, “let them eat cake” personas—was a bit over-the-top.