Reviews /

All Together Now

Authored by Eve Ainsworth
Published by UCLan Publishing

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All Together Now is a fictionalised account based on the true story of the Dick, Kerr Ladies football team and the players’ determination to keep going despite opposition from the authorities which led to a 49 year ban on women’s football.

The third book in the Dick, Kerr series, the tale follows Martha, youngest member of a family whose work and lives are inextricably linked to the Dick, Kerr & Co factory’s exceptional football team. Set in 1920-21, Martha is finally old enough to start training with the team, learning about the strength, stamina and skill needed to be a top-flight footballer. Just as it looks as if her dreams of playing for one of the most successful football teams of the era will come true, things take a worrying turn both at the club and at home. Will anyone be able to prevent the worst from happening, or will Martha’s future be cast into doubt?

The text is presented in short, readable chapters that guide the reader through a year in the life of Martha and her family. The dialogue is written to make the Lancashire dialect clear, helping to locate the story in the Northwest of England. Real characters from history feature throughout from the Dick, Kerr ladies’ team, and their real-life achievements on the pitch are celebrated along with their imagined frustration and dismay at the curtailing of their freedoms due to their gender. Issues such as women’s suffrage and the impact of a lack of affordable healthcare for the working class are central to the narrative. There are also sensitively handled references to death, post-traumatic stress and to lesbian relationships. One of the historical figures, Lily Parr, is recognised today as a gay icon and the novel does not shy away from this part of her story, telling it respectfully through Martha’s developing (but unreciprocated) feelings.

This book would work as a class novel or guided reading text for 11-12 year olds due to the themes presented. The language of the book is not challenging, lending itself as an accessible text for older learners who may struggle with reading. But its real value is in the way it can be used to explore the historical context of gender inequality in sport, the post-war years, women’s suffrage, relationships, different kinds of love, loss of a loved one… the list goes on!