Wonder Girls follows the stories of a group of women from the 1920s to the present day, from the peace and quiet of a small South Wales seaside town to the hustle and bustle of the Big Smoke. It is loosely divided into two parts, although there is plenty of overlap between the two plot strands. The first half is mainly concerned with Ida, a headstrong teenager who is determined to become the first person ever to swim the treacherous Bristol Channel, and Freda, her rebellious misfit best friend. We see how their friendship develops as they struggle to fit the small-town social norms that are expected of them, and move to London to try and make something more of themselves. In the second half of the novel the reader hears from Cecily, an elderly lady in 2009 who is recounting her life story to a young friend. It soon becomes clear that the lives of these three women are intimately linked to each other and to a newborn baby girl.
I loved Catherine Jones' understated writing style throughout this novel. The relationships between the women are delicately illustrated and their emotions are portrayed in a really subtle way. There were times when I found myself reading passages over again, thinking - what exactly just happened between these two? Did I pick up on a hint of sexual tension there? Is X angry with Y or not? It was refreshing to read something in this style when all too often I come across authors who overstate all their points and deliberately explain every plot development in a way that feels patronising to the reader.
The characters feel very real. I was expecting them all to be exemplary figures of womanhood, to inspire and amaze me with their perseverance and ambition at a time when ladies were expected to do nothing more than stay at home and look after the children. However they are all flawed and emotionally wounded in their own way.
On the whole, I wouldn't say that the plot of Wonder Girls is the most gripping I've ever read but Jones more than makes up for it with her wonderful writing & character development. I'm excited to discover whatever she writes next.