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Mary #1

Pattern of Shadows

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Mary is a nursing sister at a Lancashire prison camp for the housing and treatment of German POWs. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling; life at home a constant round of arguments—often prompted by her fly-by-night sister, Ellen, the apple of her short-tempered father's eye.

Then Frank turns up at the house one night—a guard at the camp, he's been watching Mary for weeks—and won't leave until she agrees to walk out with him. Frank Shuttleworth is a difficult man to love and it's not long before Mary gives him his marching orders. But Shuttleworth won't take no for an answer and the gossips are eager for their next victim, and for the slightest hint of fraternization with the enemy.

Suddently, not only Mary's happiness but her very life is threatened by the most dangerous of wartime secrets.

384 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2010

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About the author

Judith Barrow

8 books58 followers
Judith Barrow, originally from Saddleworth, a group of villages on the edge of the Pennines, has lived in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for over forty years.
She has an MA in Creative Writing with the University of Wales Trinity St David's College, Carmarthen. BA (Hons) in Literature with the Open University, a Diploma in Drama from Swansea University. She is a Creative Writing tutor and holds private one to one workshops on all genres.

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5 stars
93 (42%)
4 stars
79 (36%)
3 stars
32 (14%)
2 stars
10 (4%)
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4 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 34 reviews
May 18, 2018
This is a book perfect for lovers of wartime drama. I enjoyed parts of this book, but parts of it, I loathed, and I found rather twee. The story began well, the characters seemed to be well developed, the world building was satisfactory, and it seemed that the author had done a considerable amount of research for this book. Around halfway through, the plot became rather bland. The pace dramatically slowed down, and I found myself liking the characters less and less. There was something about the main female character "Mary" that wasn't quite right. There was definitely something missing from her, plus, some of her actions were really not believable, from my point of view anyway.
I think some of the descriptions that the author uses in the book was really unnecessary, and it added nothing to the story. It really just prolonged it by an extra fifty pages or so. The sexual intimacy scenes that were in here were just uncomfortable. I'm no prude, but on this occasion, I was kind of cringing.
I think the idea of this book was imaginative, and the author knew what she was aiming for, but for me, the plot was too weak and it became rather tiresome to read.
Profile Image for Terry Tyler.
Author 29 books568 followers
December 2, 2014
If you like family sagas and wartime drama I'd recommend this book. Pattern of Shadows paints a marvellously realistic picture of a working class family of the time, and makes the reader aware how much attitudes and expectations have moved on in the subsequent seventy years. Homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, violence, rigid prejudices, it's all there! It's obviously very, very well researched, which I always appreciate in a novel of this type.

There are many different story lines as the Howarth family meet with one difficulty after another. I didn't warm to the main character, Mary, who seemed rather frosty and humourless, but she was a woman of her time and situation; I imagine under her circumstances I might have been frosty and humourless too! Some of the characters were very well drawn; I particularly liked the penultimate chapter with 'orrible Arthur in the pub. At around 93% there was a bit that brought a tear to my eye, an indication of the isolation of old people living alone. I wanted to go round and take Mrs Jagger a cake!

I found some of the dialogue slightly wooden at first, with a little too much exposition, though it soon warmed up and the author's writing style seemed to 'kick in' properly around the chapter four. I thought the ending (the last couple of chapters) were very satisfactory - the ending of a novel is so important to me. It was nicely wrapped up but still leaving a little doubt, and questions to be answered in the sequel, which I shall be reading at some point because I want to know what happens next. Which is what it's all about, really, isn't it?
Profile Image for Rose.
Author 4 books72 followers
June 17, 2015
I do not usually read family dramas, but as Pattern of Shadows is set in a period of history I find particularly interesting, I decided to give it a go, and I’m pleased I did.
One of the novel’s great strengths is its sense of time and place. The author skilfully paints a portrait of what life must have been like for a working class family during WW2, accurately depicting not just the attitudes and beliefs of those times, but also the little details of day-to-day existence. I got the feeling that a considerable amount of research had gone into the novel, but the facts were deftly woven into the storyline and were not allowed to slow the pace or otherwise intrude. I found it shocking to see how restricted womens’ lives were in these comparatively recent times, and indeed how bigoted people’s opinions were generally.
The characters were well-drawn and I sympathised with Mary lumbered with the role of being ‘the sensible one’ in the family, and loved flighty Ellen who matured by the end. I did think Peter was a bit of a caricature of a German, and I struggled to understand him. Perhaps more of his character will be revealed in the sequel.
The multiple plotlines moved along at a brisk pace and the ending was satisfying. Most of the loose ends were tied up, but you could see there were enough ambiguities to make a sequel both viable and interesting.
All in all this was an accomplished debut novel and an enjoyable read. I shall definitely be buying the sequel.
Profile Image for Sue.
2,691 reviews170 followers
October 19, 2015

I have to say this reminded me of books I used to read years ago. My regular books, like Katie Flynn and Lynn Andrews, that sort of thing. Even Anna Jacobs. I used to read plenty of books like this so it was lovely to return to the roots of my first reading matter many years ago.

This is centered around the Howard family mostly in the time of the war.
We remember the men who fought for their country but we sometimes forget who 'kept the home fires burning' and worked hard in the fields, drove ambulances and cared for the wounded.

You will become familiar with the family and Mary who nurses the Germans in the prison.

Its a great introduction to the family.

I volunteered to read and review giving my honest thoughts on this story, which is unbiased and just my own personal thoughts.
Profile Image for Cathy Ryan.
1,158 reviews64 followers
July 29, 2015
4.5 stars

Pattern of Shadows revolves around the working class Howarth family, particularly Mary who is a nurse at a prisoner of war camp hospital in Lancashire. She is dedicated to, and loves, her job. Home life is another matter entirely. Her father is angry and bitter after his experiences in the First World War, embarrassed and furious at Mary’s brothers. Tom is imprisoned in Wormwood Scrubs for being a conscientious objector and Patrick, a Bevin Boy, forced to work in the mines instead of fighting on the front line and threatening to strike. Ellen, Mary’s sister, is only concerned with her own life and having a good time. And in the middle of all this is Winifred, Mary’s mother, who bears the brunt of her husband’s aggressiveness and violent temper.

When Mary meets Frank Shuttleworth, a friend of Patrick’s and a guard at the camp, she wonders if her life is about to change for the better. But Mary soon realises Frank is not all he seems, although she doesn’t completely realise the danger he poses. Mary’s life becomes even more complicated when Dr Peter Schormann arrives at the hospital to help with the patients and a risky attachment begins to grow between them.

The stark and grim reality of wartime in a Northern town is portrayed very realistically and with a tangible sense of place and atmosphere. The rows of terraced houses with outhouses in the yards, the lack of privacy and people just managing to get by with very limited resources create an evocative scenario. Well drawn and completely believable characters, clearly showing the constraints forced upon women in those not so distant times, the reality of such restrictions contrasting sharply with the much more open and broad-minded attitudes today. Prejudices, sexism and racism are rife.

It’s very refreshing to read about a different aspect of the war years. Life is unmistakably tough and I felt for Mary. Although her situation as the cornerstone of the family is difficult, she has the support of her brother, Tom, and best friend, Jean. Mary shows compassion and great strength of character despite the hardships. The storyline and the historical facts are woven together extremely well, demonstrating extensive research. Judith Barrow’s writing is articulate and expressive. A very satisfactory ending with enough left open for the second of the trilogy, which I’m looking forward to.
Profile Image for E.L. Lindley.
Author 8 books90 followers
August 6, 2013
There are so many things to like about Pattern of Shadows; I really don’t know where to start. It’s a testament to Judith Barrow’s skill as a writer that she sets up the tension on the very first page and manages to maintain it until the very last. The backdrop to the story is WW2 but ironically the tension and danger within the story come from much closer to home. Mary is a nurse living and working in a working class community in the north of England and it seems that she is being oppressed from every angle. Barrow’s writing evokes a claustrophobic impression of the terraced housing where neighbours are almost living on top of each other. The imagery throughout is so vivid, I couldn’t stop thinking what a terrific TV series this story would make. Mary is a sympathetic and likeable character but she is a woman of her time, trapped by family, duty and the notion of respectability. All of Barrow’s characters are in different ways defined by their historical context. For example we have Mary’s father whose health has been destroyed by WW1 and her brother who has been forced to go down the mines and feels emasculated by not being allowed to fight in the war. Not all of the characters behave well but we feel some sympathy for them none the less. All that is except for Frank who, from the onset, is so sinister the animosity and malice he exudes is almost palpable. Nothing in this story is cleanly cut, however. Even Peter whom Mary loves is shrouded in mystery and may not be the character he seems to be. I was enthralled by this story from beginning to end and am delighted to find that there is a sequel.
Profile Image for Suze.
1,878 reviews1,310 followers
May 28, 2015
Mary is a nurse, she works in a POW camp where German doctors are treating the patients. Mary loves her work and it's everything to her. She's also the one who keeps her family going. Her father is aggressive and the situation at home is tense. When she meets Frank she isn't interested in going out with him. He's persistent though, but after a few dates Mary doesn't want to see him any longer. Unfortunately he doesn't take no for an answer...

When a new German doctor arrives the always sensible Mary likes him a bit too much, but she could be punished for fraternizing if they'd be open about it. Mary tries to hide her feelings for Peter, but Frank knows and he's making things difficult for her. Mary also worries about her brother who's a pacifist. He's in prison and there he's met his soul mate. Slowly the situation with her family is getting worse and Mary wants nothing more than to escape it all.

Pattern of Shadows is a beautiful story set in the time of the Second World War. Mary is a strong woman, but there's only so much one person can take. She's a fabulous main character. There are so many family issues she has to solve and she tries the best she can. Even though they don't treat her very well she's there whenever they need her. I kept hoping Mary would find her happiness at some point. I liked following her and reading about her life. Judith Barrow has written a really great story about a wonderful woman.
Profile Image for Alex Martin.
Author 11 books117 followers
September 23, 2013
Beautifully written, realistic depiction of WW2 for ordinary people in extraordinary situations, 12 Sep 2013

Ms Barrow writes fluent and faultless prose. Without any telling of the story we are immersed in the cabbagey terraces of northern England and the tensions that co-exist with the outside lavatories and making do. From the first paragraph you can relax into the book, knowing this is written expertly, that you can trust the research, that this is quality. In some ways its a grim tale - no glamourising war here - and Ms Barrow brings home the messiness of conflict and the impact on those left at home who serve in different ways, and who wait for news they don't want to hear. We see how inevitably war brings out the best and worst in people and pushes them to their limits. I felt totally involved in this book; I was there with the characters as they worked through problems compounded by the dramatic times in which they lived. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves gritty drama, authentic settings and a story that sustains its tension to the very last page.
Profile Image for Camille.
464 reviews19 followers
November 26, 2014
I did enjoy this book, it was well-paced and the characters were developed and all had their individual identity.
I would give it 4 stars, but I was bothered by a couple of unnecessary detailed sex scenes (I believe you can make it clear what's happening without having to describe it in details) and especially by the numerous typos and editorial mistakes I found. Don't get me wrong, we all make mistakes and I accept this. However, when it reaches 10+ mistakes, it gets a bit annoying.
If these don't bother you, though, go ahead and try this novel!
Profile Image for Ritu Bhathal.
Author 5 books115 followers
January 2, 2018
Judith Barrow has spun a fantastic tale about a northern family in the grips of the war, with some extremely sensitive, yet relevant to today issues.
My heart went out to the protagonist, Mary, and all she had to endure, from an awful boyfriend to loving one of the 'enemy', rape and coping with the pregnancy of her unwed sister. All this and dealing with her troubled parents, and a brother who was not only an objector to the war, but stuggling to come to terms with homosexuality.
A meaty read and I was very glad to see there was a sequel!
Profile Image for Steven Kay.
Author 4 books9 followers
March 26, 2015
This is a well researched novel – you feel you can trust the author’s use of historical detail. (Only at one point towards the end did I start questioning that: when she refers to war crimes’ trials as early as August 1945. I could be wrong, but that seems a bit early.) Do such details matter – surely it is fiction? My view is that the historical novelist’s first duty is towards the history – that has to be right no matter how good the story, plot or characters. But, as I said, the detail here felt right and not over done.
The story is a good one and the settings are nicely drawn. The dialogue is well written and the language is pretty much spot on.
Where I felt it fell a little short was in some of the characters. The main character is Mary Howarth – she goes through an awful lot in the book, but somehow I never really get to appreciate her as a character – she doesn’t really change despite all that goes on in her life. She remains ‘good-old- constant-Mary.’ There seems something missing from her, somehow – an extra layer of complexity, or depth. I also, at times, found myself not believing her actions – like when she goes up to Frank’s bedroom.
The flattest of all the characters is Peter. The author has to struggle with him, partly because Mary and Peter’s relationship is illicit and hidden from view: they can’t “do” much. So for the reader it is hard to get a sense of him as a human being. We never really see what Mary sees in him – we just have to take it on trust. (And why does Peter click his heels and say ‘Ja,’ like he’s on ’Allo ’Allo!)
Frank, on the other hand, starts off as a much more complex character, and at the beginning I found myself rooting for him; though I suspected I wasn’t supposed to. He was just someone with a bit more of a spark, who raged against life. But then Frank just turned into an unpredictable psycho, and started behaving as his puppeteer directed, rather than seeming to live for himself.
Sometimes the pace slowed too much for my liking, with descriptions that leant little to atmosphere, or tension-building: like details on how cups of tea are made, or descriptions of the cut of a dresses etc, and a bit too much all-round emoting. But that is probably quite all right by what I suspect will be a largely female fan-base who will go on to read the follow-up books, eager to see what Mary gets up to after the war and how long the happy ending of Pattern of Shadows lasts.
Profile Image for Rosie Amber.
Author 0 books115 followers
April 1, 2015
Pattern of Shadows is a WW2 historical fiction. Mary Howarth is a nurse in a hospital attached to the Granville German prisoner of war camp, which is near Manchester, Uk.

The story begins in 1944. Mary's brother Tom is a conscientious objector and in prison for his refusal to take part in the war. Her second brother Patrick, is a Bevin Boy, young men conscripted to work in the coal mines during the war to support the country. He's angry at having his choice to fight in Europe taken from him and we meet him when he's part of a striking work force.

Mary's Dad is also a man with a temper, he's embarrassed by his son Tom and angry with Patrick for striking. He remembers the first World War and his role which left him suffering from the effects of gas. He's playing his part with the local home guard, but often takes his anger out on Mary's Mum in violent ways.

Mary feels she holds the family together. Her younger sister, Ellen works in a munitions factory, but hates it, wanting to be young and carefree, she's reckless with the local American GIs.

Mary meets Frank, a friend of Patrick's and they start going out, but Mary isn't sure about him. He's a guard at the prison camp having been invalided out of the army with a knee injury.

At the hospital, German doctors help look after the patients and when two new doctors arrive, Mary feels a spark between herself and doctor Peter Schormann. But any romance would be extremely dangerous for them both, however they can't hide their feelings.

Confiding in best friend Jean, Mary's troubles begin to escalate. Heavy handed jealous Frank has a brawl and Mary doesn't like this violent side to him, but he won't take her rejection lightly. He begins to stalk her and notices her friendship with the German Doctor which he threatens to put an end to.

This book shows the hardships that families in England went through during the war, their suffering, lack of food and how they coped on a day to day basis. It was an interesting mix to have the "enemy" living along side them and the reactions that the locals had, their fears and loyalties tested to extremes. I really enjoyed the story and the ending had an unexpected revelation which was a delight.
Profile Image for Sally Cronin.
Author 22 books147 followers
December 31, 2019
Pattern of Shadows is the first book in the story of the families from a mining community who face the war years and the aftermath with courage, love and also defiance. At the heart of the story is Mary who as a nursing sister combines compassion with pragmatism. She brings comfort to boys far from home who are not only severely wounded but also prisoners of war. However, on the home front there is also a hostile environment between father and son, husband and wives and between lovers.

The characters are very believable from the caring and increasingly frustrated Mary trying to cope with her flighty sister Ellen and antagonistic father and brother, to the seemingly charming Frank Shuttleworth who inserts himself into their lives.
Forbidden love blossoms despite the scrutiny of the prison camp and the close knit community and dangers lurk in the shadows.

The war years and life in the prison camp and the community is excellently researched. For those of us whose parents lived through the war years and talked to us about the hardships and the community spirit, it is as if we have stepped back in time.

I rarely read a book these days in under a couple of weeks due to time constraints but I made time for this book. I had bought all three of the current series and am now half way through Changing Patterns which is just as engaging.

If you enjoy a story that flows, wonderful writing, characters that draw you in and along with them, you will love Pattern of Shadows. Since you are unlikely to stop at just the first of the series you might as well buy the current three at the same time.
Profile Image for D.G. Kaye.
Author 10 books124 followers
August 28, 2016
This engrossing story depicts one family and their struggles to get by in war-time Lancashire, England. Mary, the eldest daughter and protagonist carries the weight of worrying about her siblings: Patrick with a terrible temper, Ellen, her self-centered sister, and Tom her brother in prison for being against the war. Mary is also on guard, protecting her mother from her emotionally and physically abusive father. Mary is a nursing sister in a prisoner hospital. Her compassion extends to the wounded enemy soldiers and one prisoner doctor, Peter, who she develops sentimental feelings for.
In a time of hatred, prejudice and abuse, Mary sacrifices her own desires in efforts to do her best to support her family and avoid the repercussions of falling for the German doctor, leaving her heartbroken.
Barrow brings us richly developed characters who will draw on our empathies and steal our hearts, while leaving us feeling that some of the characters we love to hate. These are all good elements to great writing.
As the story unfolds with relationships formed with these damaged souls, it keeps us reading till the end, hoping the evil will get their just desserts and Mary will find peace and happiness.
Profile Image for Debbie Young.
Author 35 books208 followers
November 7, 2013
This is a very well-written, gripping read about a northern family's experience of the Second World War, viewed from the Home Front. I liked the format of short chapters, adding to the tension of the narrative, told largely sequentially but with a good balance of flashbacks.

Judith Barrow's narrative very effectively creates a sense of time and place. The interesting cast of convincing characters in believable situations and relationships will have you completely in their thrall. The family at the centre of the story are also in conflict with each other over their different views and attitudes towards the War, from conscientious objector to POW nurse to resentful mineworker who'd rather be on the front line - and the family's troubles are enough to make a conscientious objector out of anyone.

"Pattern of Shadows" would make a great drama series or film, presenting a deromanticised version of what war is really like.A sobering read but also in parts a celebration of the potential of the human spirit to - for the most part - survive and retain its dignity in the most difficult of circumstances.

Highly recommended. I'm now looking forward to reading the sequel.
Profile Image for Barb Taub.
Author 9 books62 followers
June 9, 2018
We’ve all read epic family sagas—sweeping multi-generational tales like The Thorn Birds, The Godfather, Roots, the Star Wars franchise, and anything remotely connected to the British Monarchy. So as I read Judith Barrow’s Howarth Family trilogy, I kept trying to slot them into those multigenerational tropes:

*First generation, we were supposed to see the young protagonist starting a new life with a clean slate, perhaps in a new country.
*The next generation(s) are all about owning their position, fully assimilated and at home in their world.
*And the last generation is both rebel and synthesis, with more similarities to the first generation made possible by the confidence of belonging from the second one.

But the complex, three-dimensional miniatures I met in the first three books of the trilogy stubbornly refused to align with those tropes. First of all, there’s Mary Howarth—the child of parents born while Queen Victoria was still on the throne—who is poised between her parents’ Victorian constraints, adjustment to a world fighting a war, and their own human failures including abuse, alcoholism, and ignorance.When Pattern of Shadows begins in 1944, war-fueled anti-German sentiment is so strong, even the King has changed the British monarchy’s last name from Germanic Saxe-Coburg to Windsor. Mary’s beloved brother Tom is imprisoned because of his conscientious objector status, leaving their father to express his humiliation in physical and emotional abuse of his wife and daughters. Her brother Patrick rages at being forced to work in the mines instead of joining the army, while Mary herself works as a nurse treating German prisoners of war in an old mill now converted to a military prison hospital.

Mary’s family and friends are all struggling to survive the bombs, the deaths, the earthshaking changes to virtually every aspect of their world. We’ve all seen the stories about the war—plucky British going about their lives in cheerful defiance of the bombs, going to theaters, sipping tea perched on the wreckage, chins up and upper lips stiff in what Churchill called “their finest hour”. That wasn’t Mary’s war.

Her war is not a crucible but a magnifying glass, both enlarging and even inflaming each character’s flaws. Before the war, the Shuttleworth brothers might have smirked and swaggered, but they probably wouldn’t have considered assaulting, shooting, raping, or murdering their neighbors. Mary and her sister Ellen would have married local men and never had American or German lovers. Tom would have stayed in the closet, Mary’s father and his generation would have continued abusing their women behind their closed doors. And Mary wouldn’t have risked everything for the doomed love of Peter Schormann, an enemy doctor.

I was stunned by the level of historical research that went into every detail of these books. Windows aren’t just blacked out during the Blitz, for example. Instead, they are “criss crossed with sticky tape, giving the terraced houses a wounded appearance.” We’re given a detailed picture of a vanished world, where toilets are outside, houses are tiny, and privacy is a luxury.

The Granville Mill becomes a symbol of these dark changes. Once a cotton mill providing jobs and products, it’s now a prison camp that takes on a menacing identity of its own. Over the next two volumes of Howarth family’s story, it’s the mill that continues to represent the threats, hatred, and violence the war left behind.

Unlike the joyful scenes we’re used to, marking the end of the war and everyone’s return to prosperity and happiness, the war described in these books has a devastatingly long tail. When Changing Patterns takes up the story in 1950, Mary and Peter have been reunited and are living in Wales, along with her brother Tom.

But real life doesn’t include very many happy-ever-afters, and the Howarths have to live with the aftermath of the secrets each of them has kept. The weight of those secrets is revealed in their effect on the next generation, the children of the Howarth siblings. The battle between those secrets and their family bonds is a desperate one, because the life of a child hangs in the balance.

Finally, the saga seems to slide into those generational tropes in Living in the Shadows, the final book of the Howarth trilogy. Interestingly enough, this new generation does represent a blend of their preceding generations’ faults and strengths, but with the conviction of their modern identities. Where their parents’ generation had to hide their secrets, this new generation confidently faces their world: as gay, as handicapped, as unwed parents, and—ultimately shrugging off their parents’ sins—as family.

But I didn’t really understand all of that until I considered the title of the prequel (released after the trilogy). 100 Tiny Threads tells the story of that first generation, their demons, their loves, their hopes, and their failures, and most importantly, their strength to forge a life despite those failures. That book, along with the novella-sized group of short stories in Secrets, gives the final clues to understanding the trilogy. As Simone Signoret said, “Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.” And it’s both those secrets and those threads not only unite them into a family, but ultimately provide their strength.

This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you that each of these wonderful books can be read alone. But no, don’t do that. In fact, if you haven’t read any of them, you’re luckier than I am, because you can start with the prequel and read in chronological order. I chose to review these books as a set, and I believe that’s how they should be read.

Every now and then, I come across books so beautifully written that their characters follow me around, demanding I understand their lives, their mistakes, their loves, and in this case, their families. Taken together, the Howarth Family stories are an achievement worth every one of the five stars I’d give them.
Profile Image for Christoph Fischer.
Author 54 books475 followers
July 28, 2013
"Pattern of Shadows" by Judith Barrow is a wonderful gem of a historical novel with a greatly chosen setting.
Mary is a nursing sister at a prison of war camp in the UK during the last years of WWII. Her family often seems at war with each other, particularly Mary and her sister Ellen argue a lot, not least in connection with prison guard Frank, for whom Mary has mixed feelings herself.
The book has really great characters and a complex storyline. Although it is set in war time a lot of the book is about a regular family that has to deal with the loss of one of the family members and it is also about a blossoming but complicated romance. It is my kind of book, rich in plot and different themes while offering a lot of historic facts and insights with a fresh perspective.
The book was an interesting and very compelling read and I'd recommend it to anyone who - like me - likes a good story with interesting characters.
Profile Image for Georgia Rose.
Author 11 books258 followers
June 22, 2014
This is a truly wonderful book. Beautifully written this romantic yet heartbreaking love story flows at a perfect pace throughout. I started off thinking one thing only to find my preconceptions wrong as Barrow skilfully leads you through this tale of life at the end of WWII for one young woman, Mary, and her family.

Barrow’s characters are fully rounded and very real and I quickly grew attached feeling empathy for them in the situations they faced throughout this satisfying story. Not wanting this one to end I was delighted to find that, though a complete story in itself, it is the first in a trilogy and I immediately bought the second part. The final instalment is on the way. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys well written and gripping storytelling by an excellent author.
Profile Image for Heather Burnside.
Author 21 books108 followers
February 14, 2016
I found this novel a little slow to start but once I was a few chapters in I was engrossed. I used to read a lot of this type of book a few years ago, but where I feel this book differs from others with similar subject matter is in its realistic approach. The characterisation is so strong that I connected with the characters, and felt that their reactions to the situations they were faced with was natural under their specific circumstances. The plot is full of intrigue, and the writing is excellent. I particularly enjoyed all the added touches that the author has woven seamlessly into the story as these effectively capture that particular period in time.
Profile Image for Juliet Greenwood.
Author 9 books76 followers
February 8, 2014
I loved this book. The writing was so vivid I felt I was there with the characters living the story with them. I also loved its intelligence. It made me really think about what it was like to live through a war from both sides. Brilliant. I can't praise it enough.
Profile Image for Sandra Danby.
704 reviews21 followers
July 14, 2019
The first instalment of Judith Barrow’s Mary Howarth series is ‘Pattern of Shadows’, a historical romance set in World War Two Lancashire that explores the challenges and new opportunities for women in wartime. Set against a male-dominated background where the aspirations of working class women have traditionally been put second, war brings change and some people adapt better than others.
Mary is a nursing sister in the hospital attached to a prisoner of war camp, nursing German soldiers captured and injured in action. Some people find that challenging but for Mary it is a satisfying and fulfilling job. Things get complicated when she attracts the attention of two men who could not be more different. One night Mary meets Frank Shuttleworth, a guard at the POW camp and, thanks to a combination of unforeseen circumstances, runs to a shelter with him during a bombing raid. This evening has far-reaching consequences for Mary and her flighty younger sister Ellen. There are tensions at home too with her argumentative irascible father and defeated mother, as Tom her older brother is in prison as a conscientious objector and her younger brother, injured fighting, must now work as a coal miner. Meanwhile a new German doctor arrives at the hospital. With two choices in front of her, Mary must decide whether to do what is expected or defy convention, to be loyal to her family who are not always loyal to her, or to be selfish and do something for herself.
A well-paced story combining stalking, prejudice, domestic violence, homophobia, poverty and family strife, Mary is the only unselfish, balanced person in her family. Will she finally put herself first? This is at times a grim story set at a difficult time and at first I worried this was misery fiction and longed for an occasional bright light. But the setting and time period are so well researched I soon relaxed into the story as the character of Mary and her predicament drew me in. I admire her stubbornness, her selflessness and loyalty, above all her bravery. Sometimes she is misguided, always well-intentioned, I look forward to reading more about Mary in ‘Changing Patterns’, the sequel.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-revie...
Profile Image for Alex Craigie.
Author 6 books135 followers
January 6, 2018
After a cliffhanger prologue the novel intoduces us to Mary and her life as a nurse in a hospital attached to a POW camp in Lancashire during the latter part of the Second World War. The characters come to life under Judith Barrow's skillful hand and each of them has a unique voice and complex personality - there's no sterotyping here. The tension racks up with each small action and its subsequent effect on both close and fractured relationships. These people are so finely drawn you understand them and feel for them; a few of them are so recognisably loathsome it's almost unbearable.
I grew up in Eccles, on the outskirts of Manchester, and the speech patterns are natural and the detail perfect but without being laboured. The very real picture of life for 'ordinary' people at that time is pinpoint accurate but woven so skillfully into the story that it never intrudes or sounds like a history lecture.
The central character, Mary, is trapped by circumstances and a sense of responsibility. She isn't a saint, by any means - she makes mistakes and feels resentments like all of us - but she's a good person and these little foibles flesh her out and give her a life that matters to the reader; we genuinely care what happens to her. The issues she faces may be set in the past but are just as universal and relevant today.
This novel is both a tender love story and a terrifying account of persecution and revenge. There's real fear here and the menacing mood builds relentlessly to its conclusion.
Profile Image for Janet Gogerty.
Author 14 books18 followers
August 8, 2017
Sometimes I like to write a review without letting myself glimpse previous reviews, but on the other hand it is so interesting to see what others have written and Goodreads is surely meant to be a very large book club! I enjoyed the author's story telling, the setting very different from the suburban London of my parents' war as young teenagers in modern nineteen thirties terraced houses. ( But just as vulnerable to bombing of course ). Some readers have found Mary's character rather dull, but she rings true to me; in families how often is there a wild child and a dutiful daughter holding everything together. Mary's vocation as a nurse and the fact there was a war on, meant duty must have always come first. I did get annoyed with Tom, surely doing fire watch duties to help innocent people or being a medical orderly, would have been within his concience; but that would have taken a chunk of the story away, so he spent most of the novel languishing in prison!
I also noticed more typos than I would have expected, but no writer can be hundred per cent sure they won't creep in and it didn't detract from the story.
Profile Image for Janice Spina.
Author 45 books107 followers
January 16, 2019
Pattern of Shadows is an unforgettable story of a strong and courageous woman who holds her family together during WWII. Mary is a nurse who must take care of prisoners of war in the hospital. One of the doctors she works with is also a prisoner of war. When their friendship turns to something more serious they find their lives in danger.

Mary finds that she has to deal with a drunk and abusive father, a weak mother, a self centered sister, and two brothers who are different as night and day. One of them is a conscientious objector while the other is not. Mary is forced to put her own feelings and life aside to help her dysfunctional family time and time again. Will she ever find happiness for herself? Will her family be able to function without her help?

The author has created an epic tale that is both gripping and heart wrenching. She knows how to keep her readers engrossed and avidly waiting for the next book in this series. An unforgettable and enjoyable read that I highly recommend to all.
Profile Image for Darlene Foster.
Author 16 books196 followers
July 28, 2022
A poignant story about a dysfunctional family in wartime England. The main character is Mary, the only sensible member of the family, who is a nurse at a local POW camp hospital. She has a lot on her plate. Besides her demanding job, she tries to keep things together at home. Not easy with a bitter, abusive father, an angry brother, another brother in jail as a Conscientious Objector, a mother with a drinking problem and a sister with loose morals. Things go from bad to worse as the war in Europe wages on. I felt for Mary as she tries to keep the family together, maintain her friendship with Jean, a fellow nurse, and fight feelings of love for a German Doctor. The story is well written with believable characters and details of life in England during World War II. The author tackles some tough issues as well. If you enjoy family sagas, you will love this book. I look forward to reading more in this series.
Profile Image for Gerry.
66 reviews
May 4, 2018
Great story, beautifully written i enjoyed it so much from start to finish.
Author 4 books4 followers
June 29, 2015
A very good read.
This is a family saga with an interesting WW2 setting. Mary – the main character – is a nurse (along with her friend, Jean) in a POW camp hospital in her Lancashire town. Her brother Tom is a conscientious objector, imprisoned in Wormwood Scrubs; her other brother, Patrick, is a reluctant and bitter Bevin boy consigned to working down the pit when he wants to be in the army. Her younger sister, Ellen, starts out as a good time girl, dating an American GI. Then there is Frank Shuttleworth and Dr Peter Schormann. And the novel gathers a large cast of further characters as it progresses, some of whom might seem a bit extraneous, but, as this is the first novel of a trilogy, they are being set up to play their parts later.
Occasionally, some of the flashbacks necessary for the plot are a bit awkwardly handled. Similarly, in a few places the dialogue is a bit too expositionary. Otherwise, when not burdened in this way, the speech is very realistic – rendered with a true Lancashire ear. These minor quibbles aside, the story carries the reader along in a very compelling manner – this is a definite page turner.
What I really love about it, though, is the wonderful sense of time and place that Judith Barrow manages to convey. Her descriptions – of the weather (especially the rain of which there is a lot on the Lancashire side of the Pennines), streets, houses, rooms, household actions and routines – are beautifully rendered and extremely evocative. The research she did for this novel sits very comfortably alongside what must be her own personal memories of a Lancashire that didn’t change much for quite a while after the war. It is very pleasing to have this way of life recorded like this. Interesting, complex, vibrant. And, mercifully, in no way a ‘misery memoir’.
Now, I’m off to read the sequel.
Profile Image for Mirren Jones.
Author 2 books19 followers
August 9, 2014
What a super debut novel by a very skilled storyteller. This is a real page-turner of a book, with the scene set full of tension and multiple stories developing right from the first paragraph. The story is set in the North of England during World War 2; traverses many places and themes: hospital life, POW camps, Conscientious Objectors, prison, the difficulties of home life under rationing, the stifling closeness of families living in cramped and sub-standard (by modern times) homes.

At its core it's a love story, which takes many twists and turns, eventually reaching an unexpected conclusion. The reader feels great sympathy for the main character, Mary, a nursing sister in the hospital serving the POW camp. She is the archetypal 'angel in the house' - protectively looking out for her mother and sister Ellen, working hard at her job, and giving over much of her wages to her bullying father, leaving little for social pleasures. A mistaken romantic liaison with a prison guard, Frank, goes horribly wrong, following which Mary becomes hopelessly attracted to a German doctor working at the hospital, but fraternisation with the enemy was a very dangerous area at that time and the secret begins.

It's a heady mix of interwoven stories, evoking a great sense of time and place, full of sparkling dialogue and intimate portrayals of characters.
Profile Image for vanou.
47 reviews1 follower
November 5, 2022
What could have been an epic and dramatic portrayal turned into lengthy descriptive scenes slowing down an already unconvincing plot and dulling down the characters.
The writing itself was good, but the characterisation was off, and got worse through out the book. There is no sense of growth, and some characters turned into caricatures or cardboard cutouts, leaving me truly bored.
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