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Review of High Heels & Beetle Crushers by Jackie Skingley

March 14, 2020

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This book was quite a surprise to me as I was expecting something quite different. That’s not to say it was a disappointment. It wasn’t at all, and I enjoyed it tremendously. However, what I thought would be a memoir spanning a full career was actually a story of the author’s youth that ends when she’s about twenty one.

Beginning with a the loss of her beloved father in childhood, the book takes us through her growing years, her relationship with her lovely mother and loathed stepfather, her first jobs and her first loves. Her entry into the WRAC was spurred on by a desire for adventure, and this was the part I found most interesting. Being in the army as a woman was very different in the late fifties and early sixties from how it is today, and I was fascinated by the way these young women were groomed to lead platoons, do administration and generally be good managers of people. As a young commissioned officer, Jackie Singley appears to have been very good at engaging and holding the trust of those she was schooled to lead. It was a life of discipline and rules, but there seemed to be plenty of time for fun as well. Friendships were forged and lost, but there was a real sense of camaraderie, much as we would find at a girls only boarding school.

All the same, when she ends up in Germany, she finds dealing with male officers and not-so-gentlemen could be more difficult. There were also aspects of women’s army life that were much more challenging then than they are now, such as the attitudes to homosexuality, which was illegal at the time. How these were handled had me on tenterhooks as I wondered what the outcome would be.

That said, Jackie Skingley’s romantic life is also a big part of her story, as it is with any teenager and twenty-year-old, and her relationships give both joy and poignancy to the memoir. Actually, the book reads like a novel, so I’m sure it will be popular with a wide audience. I galloped through it and learnt a lot in the process. All in all, it was a really terrific read.

The link to the book is here

 

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