Novel tells story of Sunderland's wartime women shipyard workers

A city author is celebrating the release of her latest novel inspired by the brave Wearside women who stepped into the breach to keep Sunderland's shipyards working during the war.

Wednesday, 20th September 2017, 6:00 am
Sunderland shipyard workers in July 1941

Secrets of the Shipyard Girls is the third novel from the pen of Nancy Revell who draws inspiration for her characters from the true life stories of the 700 women who were employed in the yards at the height of the conflict.

The popular series of novels, which Nancy writes from her Roker home, chart the lives of a group of women who work at J.L.Thompson & sons during the Second World War.

Nancy Revell at Waterstones. Photo by James John Addison

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The previous books have proved so successful that publishers Penguin Random House have commissioned another two books - with more in the pipeline.

Nancy, 49, a former journalist who moved back to her hometown two years ago with husband Paul, said: “I’m absolutely over the moon. It really is a dream come true. The icing on the cake is that I have succeeded in doing something that I have always wanted to do – and that is to write a novel that is set in Sunderland. I’ve always known that, should I ever write a book, it would, without doubt, be set in my hometown. Now, I’ve not just had the one book published that is set in Sunderland, but three – with more to come.”

Since moving back to the city, Nancy says she’s gone through a massive learning curve when it comes to the city’s history, in particular, its proud shipbuilding heritage.

As well as drawing on her own family’s links with the shipyards as research for her novel, including stories of her grandfather and great-grandfather who died tragically in accidents in the shipyards, Nancy also uses the Echo’s archives to learn more about the chapter in the city’s history.

Cover for Secrets of the Shipyard Girls

She said: “Although it’s a real shame the shipyards are no more, I still think that the River Wear has a magical quality about it, and it’s great to see that where there were once shipyards, there are now other businesses flourishing and reshaping the river banks.”

The author says she’s been overwhelmed by local support for the books, particularly Fulwell Post Office who sell signed copies of the book, the second of which made it to number 20 in the Sunday Times Bestsellers List.

•Secrets of the Shipyard Girls is released tomorrow. Nancy will be signing copies at Waterstones in The Bridges between noon and 2pm on Saturday.

Nancy Revell at Waterstones. Photo by James John Addison
Cover for Secrets of the Shipyard Girls