The Tea Ladies of St Jude’s Hospital – Joanna Nell

Published By: Hodder and Stoughton
Pages: 352
Released On: 03/03/2022

The Marjorie Marshall Memorial Cafeteria has been serving refreshments and raising money at the hospital for over fifty years, long after anybody can remember who Marjorie Marshall actually was. Staffed by successive generations of dedicated volunteers, the beloved cafeteria is known as much for offering a kind word and sympathetic ear (and often unsolicited life advice) as for its tea and buns.

Stalwart Hilary has worked hr way up through the ranks to Manageress; Joy has been late every day since she started as the cafeteria’s newest recruit. She doesn’t take her role as ’the intern’ quite as seriously as Hilary would like but there’s no doubt she brings a welcome pop of personality. Seventeen-year-old Chloe, the daughter of two successful surgeons, is volunteering during the school holidays because her mother thinks it will look good on her CV.

Chloe is at first bewildered by the two older women but soon realises they have a lot in common, not least that each bears a secret pain. When they discover the cafeteria is under threat of closure, this unlikely trio must band together to save it.

*****

Thanks to Hodder and Stoughton for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

I’ve not read any of Joanna’s books before, but having finished this one, I will definitely be keeping an eye out for her others. She has such a natural way of writing.

The characters are so well defined and familiar – that’s not to say I liked all of them. They are all a bit over the top, but they stay the right side of caricature. Joanna really understands her characters, old and young, and how her audience will relate to them.

Whilst it is a fictionalised tale, and some would say a frivolous read, I think it really shows us how important hospital volunteers are. It’s like a love letter to our hospitals and our carers.

It is a light, quick read, but there are a few twists and surprises that I wasn’t expecting, which was a nice change to the other, so-called happily-ever-after books.

It’s a really cosy, happy, joyful book, and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it to others.

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