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Fire by Deborah Challinor
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Loosely based on the 1947 Ballantynes Department Store Fire in Christchurch that killed 41 people, mostly store employees trapped because of delays, errors, and fatal mistakes. In 1953 four working class girls are employed at Dunbar & Jones, an upmarket New Zealand department store. Allie Roberts is a dress department salesgirl, Louise Taylor works in lingerie, Daisy Farr is a milliner and Irene Baxter a typist. Allie soon finds herself attracted to store worker Sonny Manaia whose best mate is leader of a notorious motorbike gang. Meanwhile married and bored Irene has just begun an illicit relationship with a co-worker, pregnant Daisy is planning a wedding and Louise is busy saving for a house with her husband and three year old daughter. The store is very busy, it being the week before Christmas and just prior to Queen Elizabeth's Royal Visit. When smoke is discovered drifting from the basement lift shaft the store is full. The fire alarm doesn't work, the power goes out and exits are cut off by the fire. With the first floors ablaze, staff are trapped on the upper floors and remedial work has meant that portions of the fire escape are missing. Will the girls be numbered among the 49 people who will die? Set against the story are several social issues such as adultery, unplanned pregnancy, Maori land issues at Orakei, milk-bar cowboys (bodgies & widgies) and their fights with teddy boy's. This story gives a great taste of 1950's New Zealand. The part with the fire is dramatically told and was very emotional to read with the knowledge of what happened during the Ballantynes fire. A really good read. ( )
  DebbieMcCauley | Dec 6, 2015 |
I'd been meaning to read 'Fire' for such a long time. I found it again on the shelf at the bach and decided this was a chance to get to 'the end'. I'm so glad I took the time to read this NZ author. Deborah did a lovely job and I so enjoyed knowing the places that she talked about in the book. The smatterings of New Zealand history were great as well.
I read into the early hours of the morning (joy, no work when I'm on holiday, so I could) and I wasn't disappointed that I missed my 'bedtime' ;-)
If you love an insight into recent New Zealand history and the social 'norms' of the 50's, then you'll love this book.
This was the first book of Deborah's that I have read and I'll be looking for more.
( )
  Toni_Kenyon | Jan 26, 2014 |
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Fictional story of a department store fire which was inspired by the fire at Ballantynes department store in Christchurch, 1947.

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