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on 18 April 2012
I really loved this book as I worked for Tate and Lyle for 45 years and grew up in the area set around this story. Its a must for any one who grew up in the east end in the 50's and 60's and it took me back to my early years in both Lyle's and Tate's refineries.
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on 30 March 2012
The Sugar Girls: Tales of Hardship, Love and Happiness in Tate & Lyle's East EndK

A great read which I really enjoyed .It was a wonderful insight into life in the fifties and held my attention until I finished it .
The lives of these women proved to be complex and intriguing .This is a wonderful social history of life in London before, during and after the war.Many thanks to both the authors.
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on 1 April 2012
The preface gives the reader a brief background of the two refineries. The employment conditions of the times and also the changes in modern Silvertown are also briefly touched on.

The reader is then introduced to Ethel, Lilian and Gladys whose families all have similar social backgrounds ... and later on we get to meet Joan whose family have a different perspective of finances.

Their stories are narrated in chapters of their own and the language is such that you can imagine the women themselves sharing their experiences as opposed to an author re-telling their memories. I felt their personalities really came through which gave me the human element I needed to identify with them and helped me imagine how they felt. This makes something that could have been `dry and factual' into a very enjoyable read.

Although there are plenty of facts about the Tate & Lyle refineries, they are woven in amongst the women's lives. The reader follows them from their first days in the factory but also we're with them on a day-to-day basis experiencing the life they lived outside of the factory. Alongside the women we get to meet their families and their co-workers and eventually their boyfriends and husbands. The reader learns about social history as well and `natural' disasters ie The Great Smog in 1952 and the storm tide in 1953. As well as the `good times' - WW2, war romances, evacuation, infant mortality, poverty, pregnancies outside marriage, adoption, domestic violence and politics are all a part of The Sugar Girls lives.

Tate & Lyle were such impressive employers with the way they looked after their employees (convalescent home, factory surgery, pensions etc) and rewarded them with bonuses and promotions. I must admit to having a giggle at the bidets ... It was such a way of life for The Sugar Girls including the friends that they made at work, it was no wonder they didn't want to leave when they got married!

A lovely touch for me is the epilogue - where we find out where the `girls' are now in their lives.

From a family history/genealogy perspective, although there are many names mentioned, some names have been changed to protect identities so I'm not sure how useful it will be for someone trying to trace a specific ancestor/relative. If you have a family member who worked at Tate & Lyle then it's invaluable for finding out many things about the company and the lifestyle.

I would like to thank the authors for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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on 11 April 2012
This is a wonderfully well written book about the lives and times of people who worked for a major employer in the east end before, during and after the second world war. In particular it focuses on the lives of four girls and gives a superb overview of the social history of those times. The girls' lives were hard and sometimes difficult, but the sunny nature of the east enders shines through. This isn't a novel but a true story and will take the reader back to a time that some will recall with nostalgia and for others a look at how life used to be. It's funny and poignant at the same time.
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on 7 April 2012
I loved this book. It was a brilliant glimpse into this period of history. Reading almost as a novel or piece of fiction, the women's stories are compelling and, by the end of it, you just want to meet them and ask them more about their experiences. What I found especially interesting was the sense of community and support that working at the factory seemed to inspire. These women are still friends today, 60 years on. There is, as the subtitle suggests though, a harsher, darker side with illness, loss and poverty suffered by most of the women at some point. It is to the book's great credit however that these aspects are not dealt with in an all-consuming way. Indeed, the feeling you come away with is a positive one and a sense that, in spite of their hardships, these women enjoyed their time working at Tate & Lyle. They had fun and I think it's wonderful to see a memoir such as this that touches upon the positive as well as the negative aspects of life in 1950s East End London. Recommended.
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on 14 April 2012
What a fantastic book i read it over a couple of days because i found it to be addictive , have also purchased the rest of the stories , althou i have only read a couple of pages as i found they were just repeating chapter and verse from the main book , however i will continue just to see if bringing up to speed of main book and then will carry on , defiantly recommend thou
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on 11 April 2012
This was a book I never wanted to end. So many books about life in the East End past are riddled with misery which can result in them being quite hard going and although these factory workers had their fair share of grief the pervading emotion is one of joy. The writing style is also bubbly and conversational which makes it a pleasure to read and leaves you feeling as though these ladies have been sharing their stories with you over a sherry in a cozy East End boozer.
A wonderful book to make you nostalgic for living in simpler times but with enough reality to also make you thankful you don't.
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on 30 March 2012
This is set in the East End of London in the 1950's when young women some only fifteen years of age would go off to work at Tate and Lyle's sugar factory. An honest and factual look at the lives these women experienced, the personal hardships that they and their families endured, and the good times too. Though working in the factory was very hard they built up a great camaraderie amongst themselves as Tate and Lyle offered not just a job but a social life as well.
My only observation would be that the writing was quite dull in parts, but worth a read as of good historical interest.
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on 1 April 2012
Fabulous piece of social history. It also highlights how working conditions and employment law have changed and improved since the war. The characters knew about hardship, but it was a way of life for them. They are resilient and have a deep sense of community. Particularly the main character, Ethel. At the end of the book I felt like I'd love to sit and have a cuppa and a chat with her.
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on 21 April 2012
My wife just loved this book and once started found it difficult to put down.She is now 81 and can understand the rigours of working class life of that period.
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