My debut saga, The Post Office Girls – written as Poppy Cooper – has just been published by Hodder & Stoughton. It’s the first in a series about the lives and escapades of the women working in the Army Post Office’s Home Depot in The Regent’s Park in WW1.
As a saga, The Post Office Girls is clearly a departure from my debut novel, Another Us, which was contemporary uplit. So why the change? Well, several reasons as I set out in a Letter to the Reader at the front of the book:
‘My grandfather, Joseph ‘George’ Biggs, served in the First World War. He never talked about his experiences but, at the end of his life, he was right back in those trenches, hiding from the shells. That haunted me and taught me, more than anything, what the men in the Great War endured and how it must never, ever be forgotten.
What Grandpa George did talk about was the post office. Before the war, he was a teenage assistant postman near Liverpool, but after the war, he came down to London and worked his way up the ranks at Mount Pleasant Sorting Office. The loveliest of grandfathers, apparently he ruled his section of the sorting office with a rod of iron – even, at one point, turning down an opportunity to head up the postal service in the Bahamas. My old childhood took place before the age of the internet, so writing and receiving letters was a big part of my growing up and my grandfather’s job helping to run London’s main sorting office seemed terribly romantic to me. All those letters….
When I heard the Army Post Office had constructed the ‘biggest wooden building in the world’ at the time – the Home Depot – in The Regent’s Park during WW1, I knew it would make a wonderful setting for a story, During the war, soldiers and their families sent over two billion letters and 140 million parcels to each other. Much of this went through The Home Depot, where it was sorted by thousands of postal workers – many of them (by necessity) women as their menfolk – like Grandpa George – were away at the front. It was an opportunity for many of these women to leave their traditional roles for the first time and heralded the beginning of a huge social revolution that persists to this day.
Beth, Milly and Nora are fictional characters, but the descriptions of the Home Depot and wider events in WW1 are very much based on truth and I hope capture the spirit of the age. I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing the book and developing the characters against the backdrop of such a turbulent part of our history. I hope you grow to love them as much as I do and that you will come back to discover what happens to them as the war progresses.’