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BY SALI SHOBOWALE

An Ocean Apart launched on Tuesday, October 18 in Market Harborough

A riveting novel about the women who came as part of the Windrush generation to be nurses, will made its way to Leicestershire this week. An Ocean Apart, written by Sarah Lee, is described as ‘a virtual love letter’ to the NHS , and to immigrant workers from all over the world who contributed to British history.

October formally marks Black History Month in the UK , and Northampton-based author Sarah, 48, thought it would be the perfect time to bring the publication to one of the most diverse counties in England at a book launch in Market Harborough on Tuesday, October 18. An Ocean Apart is about three young women who travelled from Barbados and Jamaica in the 1950s, after being invited to Britain to train and work as nurses.

The story is one of sisterhood, detailing their friendship, hopes and dreams while also honing in on some of the challenges they faced in mid-century Britain, such as racism. Sarah said: “Naturally there are always challenges around settling in, finding community, being far from home and being accepted.”

“Even while trying to do a job that positively benefits society, many of the nurses endured these struggles, so the characters are a reflection of what a lot of the women at the time went through.”

Sarah said that her mother, Marjery Watson, was the main inspiration behind the novel. Her mum was a Windrush generation nurse who came in 1960 at the age of 20, and she worked in the medical field for 48 years.

 

“There are so many other women like my mum, who had left all they’d ever known, to come here to build up what was a very fledgling service at the time. The NHS only started in 1948, almost two weeks after Empire Windrush arrived, resulting in a lot of people from the West Indies manning the early national health service but those stories don’t really get told.”

“My mum had a friend back in the day who was about to bathe a child at work, but the child who was no older than five cried and said ‘I don’t want a black nurse to wash me, I want a white nurse to wash me’ and stories like that were a common occurrence for black workers at the time.”

Sarah added that Britain post-war is a big theme of the book and she said she explored the physical, mental and negative impact it had on people at the time.

“Black people manned the railways, construction and transportation, but unfortunately their contributions are often overlooked, but the fact of the matter is, black history is British history.

“As much as we have this dedicated month, a lot of the actual history gets lost. My view is that without these early pioneers, Britain would be in a very different place than what it is now.”

Sarah Lee’s launch party for her debut novel An Ocean Apart was on Tuesday, October 18 at 6.pm at the Ecovillage on St Mary’s Road, Market Harborough.

The book will be available to purchase at Quinns bookshop in Market Harborough as well as all major book retailers.

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