Coronation St. at War was written by Daran Little, who is the show’s archivist. I have watched “Coronation Street” daily ever since 1985, and even arranged to tape every episode from the summer of 2000 when I was out of the country–I really never, ever miss an episode. It is by far my favourite show. This novel, which starts on September 3, 1939 (the day Great Britain declared war on Germany) serves as a prequel to the long-running TV series, which started broadcasting in 1960. Characters such as Ken Barlow and Dennis Tanner are introduced by their wartime births, and Alf Roberts appears as a sixteen-year-old messenger. The dialogue is written in northern idiom, and it matched the conversational flow of the show exactly. It was easy to read the passages of dialogue with the Manchester accent in mind, and Little even captured the oral omission of definite and indefinite articles. The dialogue was so realistically rendered that I read the characters’ lines in their own voices.
Wartime northern England was not kind to women, and the novel was full of brutal abuse they suffered, in particular Elsie Tanner. Sex scenes are not part of the television series, and the show has never needed to broadcast half-naked cast members in the bedroom to draw viewers. Coronation St. at War, however, does have its share of sex, especially since wartime Manchester was overrun by the American army and air force, and the local lasses were smitten by the Yanks’ good looks and queer accents.
I couldn’t help but snicker at the passage quoted below, about rationing and the shortage of meat. I was immediately reminded of Mrs. Slocombe (from “Are You Being Served?”) and her own beloved feline:
“‘I think she’s right for once in ‘er life. I wouldn’t go to t’other place, that’s for certain. I wouldn’t trust anythin’ ‘e passed on as chicken for a start. There’s too many cats go missin’ round ‘is way.’
‘Oh, Ena!’ Minnie put her hand to her mouth, ‘you don’t think…’
‘I do. And ‘appen he’s got the right idea. There’s folk eatin’ ‘orses in France, yer know. It’s that or starve.’
‘Well, no one’s eatin’ my pussy!’ said Minnie.”
I chose to read this book because I love the TV show and I wanted a light read over Christmas in Halifax. After my plane landed from a snowy flight from down east, I was so possessed by the busybody spirit of Ena Sharples in that I came *this close* to telling a young woman at the airport that no one wanted to listen to her ghastly music coming out of her cellphone and that she should use headphones. I was prepared for any “get lost” reply I might receive with a snappy comeback that Ena would have been proud of.
Coronation St. at War finished two years before the end of World War II. I was disappointed that the book didn’t see till the end of the war. I could foresee this, merely by the number of pages left to read when the novel was still in 1943.