Christmas with the Surplus Girls


Manchester, August 1922


After the sorrows of war, can Christmas wishes come true?


Manchester, 1922. Nancy Pike is out of her depth. A pupil at the Miss Heskeths' school for surplus girls, she's blundering through her lessons and her job placements. She never wanted to leave her beloved pie-shop job, but she knows she needs to better herself. Her only joy is getting to know the children at St Anthony's orphanage. And working for Mr Zachary Milner twice a week.


Zachary's new business is off to a flying start. Alone in the world since the death of his brother, he's determined to do well for the both of them. And Nancy's presence has brought a little sunshine back into his life. But when she makes a terrible mistake that puts his livelihood in jeopardy, he has no choice but to let her go.


As Nancy struggles to find a way to make it up to him, she must also try to make this Christmas the best the orphans have ever seen - or risk losing yet another chance to help her family. As she battles the prejudices around her, and her own fear, can she bring a little Christmas cheer to the orphanage, and maybe even to Zachary Milner?




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Review in Frost Magazine


I make no secret of the fact I love Polly Heron’s books, so the moment the review copy of this one was available I requested it and dived straight in. For a start, I think the premise of this series is brilliant; the stories of the women who had expected to marry, only for the First World War to kill so many men. Their battle to make something of their lives as single women in the 1920s is seldom told and quite frankly it should be.


A saga series needs central characters and in the Surplus Girls these take the form of unmarried sisters, Prudence and Patience Hesketh, who run a business school from their home to train women in the skills they need. In this, the third book, our understanding of their position deepens and their stories move on too, for one of them at least in a quite unexpected way.


Christmas with the Surplus Girls is a wonderful blend of the comfortingly familiar (characters from previous books making appearances, the orphanage as the heart-warming seasonal setting, and, of course, the love story) with quite a few twists and turns. There are moments when nothing is quite as it seems, as well as breath-takingly written passages of true drama, but to say more would spoil it for the reader.


For the saga fan, this is the perfect Christmas read. As ever with Polly Heron’s writing there is no mawkish sentimentality, there is genuine emotion, elegantly portrayed. And even better, if you haven’t read the other Surplus Girls books there is still time to catch up with them before it’s time to pour yourself a glass of festive cheer and settle down with this beauty.

This is the beautiful audiobook cover.

Book Group Questions


1. What are your first impressions of Nancy? How does she see herself?

2. What are Nancy’s strengths and weaknesses in her various places of work?

3. How does Prudence’s relationship with Vivienne develop in the course of the story? What does Prudence learn about herself because of it?

4. What sort of person is Zachary? How does the memory of his twin brother affect him?

5. Compare Prudence Hesketh with Mrs Rostron.

6. In what ways does Nancy display strength during the story?

7. How Christmassy is the book?

8. The Miss Heskeths are from the respectable, educated middle class, but they have little money. How does this affect their way of life?

9. In what ways is the theme of ‘family’ explored in the story?

10. Which character do you like the least/the most? Why?