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 workshops on all genres.
My next book, Sisters is due to be published by Honno ( https://www.honno.co.uk) in January 2023. Two sisters hold a secret that changes both their lives forever.
My last book, The Heart Stone,was published by Honno in February 2021. Set in Lancashire, the story begins as the First World War is declared. The protagonist, Jessie, has realised that her feelings for her friend, Arthur are far more than friendship. Arthur lies about his age to join his local Pals’ Regiment. Jessie’s widowed mother is so frightened, she agrees to marry Amos Morgan, not knowing what a violent and spiteful man he is. When he turns on Jessie, Arthur’s mother is the only person to help her and the two women are drawn together. But Jessie faces a desperate future and must choose between love and safety
My previous book, The Memory, was published by Honno in March 2020 and is a stand alone book about a woman, Irene Hargreaves, who is the career for her mother. One a dark evening in 2001 Irene stands by the side of her mother's bed and knows it is time. For more than fifty years she has carried a secret around with her; a haunting memory she hasn't even confided to her husband, Sam, a man she has loved and trusted all her life. But now she must act before he arrives home...
Irene and her mother, Lil, are bound to each other by the ghost of Irene's sister, Rose. A little girl with dark hair, a snub nose and an extra chromosome. A genetic hiccup that shaped all their lives. Irene and Sam care for Lil now that dementia has claimed all but her failing body. Irene is at the end of her tether, but if she consigns her mother to a residential home, she and Sam will lose theirs. Irene blames her mother for Rose's death, and will never forgive her,
The Howarth Family Saga Series
The prequel to the Haworth trilogy, A Hundred Tiny Threads, was published by Honno in 2017and is the story of Mary Howarth's mother,Winifred, and father,Bill. Set between 1910 & 1924 it is a the time of the Suffragettes, WW1 and of the Black and Tans sent to Ireland to cover the rebellion and fight for freedom from the UK. And of the influenza pandemic. It is inevitable that what forms the lives, personalities and characters of Winifred and Bill eventually affects the lives of their children, Tom,Mary, Patrick and Ellen. .
The Haworth trilogy begins.
Pattern of Shadows was published by Honno in May 2010. Set in Lancashire during the Second World War, the protagonist, Mary Haworth, works as a nurse at Lancashire prison camp for German POWs and is the main breadwinner for her fractious family. Fraternisation is not allowed, but Mary becomes friendly with Peter Schormann, a POW and a doctor who is seconded to the hospital. But there is ever-present danger in the figure of Frank Shuttleworth, a guard at the camp and persistent admirer of Mary.
The sequel to Pattern of Shadows, Changing Patterns, published by Honno, is set in 1950/51.The war is over, but for Mary the danger isn't. Mary is living in mid Wales with Peter and working as a nurse, though she knows her job is in danger if the hospital finds out about him. When her brother Tom is killed, Mary is devastated, especially as nobody will believe that it wasn't an accident. Her best friend Jean is doing her best to get Mary to leave Peter and come back to Lancashire. Mary is sure this will never happen, but she has no idea of the secret Peter is keeping from her.
The last of the trilogy, Living in the Shadows, published by Honno in 2015, is set in 1969 and is the story of the next generation of the Howarth and Schormann families. It is a time of Mods and Rockers, the Beatles, flower-power and free love. But for Linda Howarth, Ellen and Ted's daughter, and Richard Schormann, Mary and Peter's son, the shadows from the past return to haunt them.
Review by Barb Taub for the Haworth Series
"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....
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.
I was stunned by the level of historical research that went into every detail of these books... 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 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.
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."
The eBook, Silent Trauma, is the result of years of research, and the need to tell the story in a way that readers will engage with the truth behind the drug Stilboestrol. So I had the idea of intertwining this main theme around and through the lives of four fictional characters, four women, all affected throughout their lives by the damage the drug has done to them. Their stories underpin all the harm the drug has done to so many women all over the world. The story is fictional, the facts are real.
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I wait by the bed. I move into her line of vision and it’s as though we’re watching one another, my mother and me; two women – trapped.
Today has been a long time coming. Irene sits at her mother's side waiting for the right moment, for the point at which she will know she is doing the right thing by Rose.
Rose was Irene's little sister, an unwanted embarrassment to their mother Lilian but a treasure to Irene. Rose died thirty years ago, when she was eight, and nobody has talked about the circumstances of her death since. But Irene knows what she saw. Over the course of 24 hours their moving and tragic story is revealed – a story of love and duty, betrayal and loss – as Irene rediscovers the past and finds hope for the future.
"...A book that is both powerful and moving, exquisitely penetrating. I am drawn in, empathising so intensely with Irene that I feel every twinge of her frustration, resentment, utter weariness and abiding love." Thorne Moore
"Judith Barrow's greatest strength is her understanding of her characters and the times in which they live; The Memory is a poignant tale of love and hate in which you will feel every emotion experienced by Irene." Terry Tyler
The new novel from the bestselling author of the Howarth family saga
Mother and daughter tied together by shame and secrecy, love and hate.
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Teri M Brown