Storm Clouds Gathering

Storm clouds are gathering, silently and slowly, too far away to worry about. Or so it seems. But ignoring what is brewing will have dire consequences for the people caught up in the maelstrom.

Shirley Burton is too busy cheating on her husband, having a laugh and looking for fun to alleviate the boredom of her childless marriage. Kathleen Mitchell is too wrapped up in running around after her beautiful family to worry about her health. Anne Simpson has two things on her mind: her forthcoming marriage to Paul Betham, who seems to want to control her, and her career, which she does not want to give up.

Can Shirley really expect to deceive her husband and get away with it? Can Kathleen hold it all together, and is Anne able to have the best of everything?

Storm Clouds Gathering is a story of human emotion, passion and heart-rending grief. Set against the backdrop of the mid-sixties, these three families will be tested to the limit as betrayal, loss and love threaten to change their lives forever.

Chapter ONE

Shirley Burton and Kathleen Mitchell crossed the cobbled stone yard with the rest of the shift workers. The bitter cold morning made their step hurried and their breath steam as they headed for the Mill, a three-storey building, its bricks blackened with soot, smoke belching out from the massive chimney on its left-hand end. Shivering, Kathleen glanced at the thin layer of ice floating on top of the millpond that ran the length of the yard. So far as she could see, Spring was not so much around the corner as out of sight.
‘Morning ladies,’ the Overlooker called, leaning on the jamb of the spinning shed door, a cigarette stuck to his lips, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his brown coat. Tall, dark and ruggedly handsome, Billy Smith at twenty-eight had still not succumbed to marriage. His reputation for enjoying the ladies was well known around the millworkers. Despite the dangling cigarette he managed a cheeky smile as he watched the women march towards the clocking-in shed, their chattering voices filling the yard and creating a merry atmosphere in the grey, frosty surroundings. Raising his head and pursing his lips Billy exhaled a mouthful of smoke letting it plume into the frigid air. Nipping the end of his cigarette he dropped the tab end into the breast pocket of his coat, frowning as he caught sight of the women’s curlers. Thankfully, most were concealed by headscarves, but two always seemed to peep out at the front. Smirking, he called out, ‘Must be Friday I see,’ and gave a loud wolf-whistle, rubbing his nicotine-stained fingers together to remove bits of tobacco.
‘Not much gets past you Billy boy, does it?’ Shirley Burton called back and at the same time patted her headscarf where curlers were neatly rolled in her hair. ‘If I’m lucky tonight, it just might be the last time you’ll have a chance to squint at me dressed to kill,’ she scoffed, then nudging, Kathleen, ‘he’s a cheeky bugger and a dirty one too.’
‘Well you should know,’ Kathleen remarked sourly. She knew Shirley and Billy had been having an affair for the last three months.
Shirley snorted and linking her arm with Kathleen’s, walked into the small and draughty lean-to clocking-in shed.
Rigid with disapproval Kathleen reached for the “Out Rack”, pulled out her card and dipped it into the heavy grey machine, listening for the deep clunking sound as it stamped the time. ‘I take it you’re coming with us tonight then?’ She retrieved her card and stepped forward to push it into the “In Rack”. Turning back she looked to see how many cards were left in the “Out Rack” and scanned the names, satisfied she did not have to clock-in one of her mates. ‘So are you? You’ve not answered my question.’
Shirley sidled towards her. ‘Give over Kath. You know the score, but I’ll try and stop by before the game begins, you know me.’
 ‘That’s the point Shirley, I do know you and believe you me you are playing a very dangerous game.’
‘Just cover for me and no one will be any the wiser. No one’s going to get hurt.’
Kathleen shook her head, her tone registering her disapproval. ‘Well don’t come running to me when it all gets nasty and your Jimmy throws you out.’
‘I’m just having a bit of fun, Kathleen.’ Stepping back to the entrance, Shirley gave a little wave to Billy Smith, who was still propped against the door.
‘What are you playing at?’ Kathleen hissed, her voice thick with concern as they nudged their way through to the cloakroom. ‘You know as well as I do there’s no good in that Billy, he’s only interested in one thing and he’ll hurt you in the end.’ Tucking a strand of loose hair under the hairnet hidden beneath her turban, Kathleen saw a sly smile cross Shirley’s face and wondered what had happened to her friend that she was behaving like a common trollop.  As fond of Shirley as she was – they went back a long way – this carry on with the Overlooker was ridiculous. Shirley and Jimmy had problems, but she had not expected her friend to turn to someone like the lecherous Billy Smith, who was neither married nor interested in anything more than getting his leg over, ruining other people’s relationships in the process.
Shrugging out of her coat, Shirley answered, ‘Having some fun Kathleen, and it’s time you thought about it too. That Joe of yours is a good man, but when did he last take you out and make you feel special? Like most women of our age, I bet you’ll not even be able to remember.’
Kathleen winced, but she had no intention of having a row with Shirley so did not retaliate. Instead she repeated, ‘Like I said, he’ll hurt you. And what about Jimmy? As for me, I’ve my Joe and my kids and I’m happy enough with my lot.’
‘Billy Smith won’t hurt me, it’ll more likely be the other way round, but before I’m past me prime I’m going to have a bit of fun. Anyway, these days Jimmy’s only interested in his tea being on the table when he gets home and a bit of how’s yer father on a Saturday night. I don’t care what anyone says, we’re all too young to be sitting in front of the fire every night smoking a fag and wishing. I’m thirty-two not bloody sixty-two. I’ve done with years of wishing. Now I’m doing.’
Shaking her head, Kathleen knew better than to say any more. If Shirley wanted to play with fire by having a fling with Billy Smith then why should she care? She had enough of her own troubles. Leaving the cloakroom, she said ‘Come on Shirley, the wool won’t spin itself, unfortunately.’
Stepping through the heavy, green sliding door, the noise of the clattering machinery assailed their ears. The ever-present mist of fluff hung in the air and Kathleen sneezed as it tickled her nose, she could already feel the fine fibres lodging in her throat. Thank God she only worked the morning shift. Tightening the belt on her pinnie she pulled her sleeves down so her cardigan covered as much as possible of her arms. The fluff irritated her skin. Tapping Shirley on the shoulder, she mouthed, ‘I’ll see you later,’ and not waiting for a response hurried along the walkway towards her two looms, one on top of the other.
Stepping up to them, Kathleen checked that all the woollen threads ran smoothly and there was no slack or breaks in the yarn. She looked after ninety bobbins, forty-five on each loom. It took not only concentration to make sure the lines ran smoothly, but deftness in her fingers if a line broke. When this happened she tried not to panic, stopping the spinning bobbin where the thread had broken and at the same time speedily tying a knot to rejoin the wool. She knew that when a break occurred time was of the essence to get the bobbin spinning again. The last thing she wanted was to get her loom in a tangle, because it meant the Overlooker having to sort it out. This wasn’t too bad if it was the likes of Billy Smith. She didn’t like him much, but he was fair at sorting out any mess that happened when she couldn’t make a repair fast enough herself. One or two of the other Overlookers were less easy going than Billy and once too often she had felt the sting of their barbed tongues.

Trying not to dwell on the irritating side of her job, Kathleen focussed her attention on scanning the bobbins, thankful it was Friday.

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An emotional portrait of the deep friendships between three women, as they navigate their respective romantic relationships and family life. I was particularly impressed with Barclay's depiction of England in the 1960s, especially with her references to women's rights and the educational system.

My latest purchase from Pauline Barclay is “Storm Clouds Gathering.” This novel being set in the 60’s is a wonderful reality story about three women, each extremely different in their way of life: Kathleen Mitchell who is a loving hard working mother and wife. To make ends meet she works all hours she can in the nearby wool mill. Her best friend Shirley Burton unfortunately without children also working in the same mill doesn’t quite have the same views of marriage life as Kathleen does and finds herself in a very precarious situation after having an affair with one of the factories foremen. Then there is Anne Simpson a school teacher at the nearby junior school where Kathleen’s children attend. She fights for the rights of children that they should not be bodily mishandled as punishment for misbehaviour which more than often was the case in the 60’s. Engaged to a deputy headmaster who not only absolutely disagrees with her way of teaching but with the love she has for her little bungalow inherited from her dearly beloved Grandmother who brought her up after the death of her parents at a very young age.
Storm Clouds Gathering evolves on true to life situations, being the struggle to make ends meet, having a boring relationship with the husband or finding the truth about the man you really love.
This superbly written novel is the very best ever written by Pauline Barclay. I loved every minute of it even though I occasionally couldn’t stop the tears. Days after I’d finished the book I thought about the girls and how their lives have continued. Maybe Barclay could think about writing a follow up!
A 5 star novel and an absolutely “MUST READ”

This excellent book is set in the sixties and is about three women, each with their own troubles and conflicts. Anne, a determined young teacher, striving to be the best she can against the odds. She is in love and despite a troubled past has much to look forward to, or so it seems. Shirley, loves her husband, but she's having more than a little fun with a man she isn't married to, and Kathleen her best friend and work colleague, is so busy taking care of the husband and children she adores that she doesn't take warning signs to her health very seriously.

This book was perfect to come home to for the past few days. I lost myself in these women's lives and each time I had to put the book down I couldn't get their stories out of my mind and couldn't wait to return to find out what happened next to them.

Didn't think I would enjoy this as much as I did. This is the second of Pauline's books that I've read, it was a pleasure to read.

This is the first book of Pauline Barclay’s that I have read and it won’t be the last. ‘Storm Clouds Gathering’ tells the story of three families during the sixties in the North of England. Being originally from Yorkshire myself the setting immediately appealed to me and Pauline’s evocation of the era is spot-on. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the three stories intertwined and Pauline Barclay is adept at sweeping the reader up as the story carries you along. I became quite engrossed in the highs and lows that the different characters shared, running the whole gamut of emotions – always the sign of a good writer. This is a book that will stay in your mind long after you have finished the last page.

I loved this novel because I grew up in the sixties and many of the (very accurate) references to clothes, social mores and living conditions had a resonance for me. That aside, the interwoven lives of the three female characters were totally realistic and reflected the changes moving society forward from the dullness of the years after the war when everything (including excitement ) was in short supply, to the bright, new Swinging Sixties. But such change is slow outside London and the bigger cities and the journey which the characters undertake demonstrates this. I was so hooked into this story that I stayed up late to finish it. If aren't rooting for one (or all) of the characters I'd be very surprised. Looking forward to Ms Barclay's next novel.

I was crushed when this story was over. I didn't want to close the book on Barclay's cast of characters in Storm Clouds Gathering. This novel is all about wonderful, wonderful characters, strong and broken relationships, hope and grief, love, happiness and despair. Success and failure and always...the tension from those storm clouds on the horizon. Well worth the read!

a brilliant book met pauline barclay in lanzarote when we were on holiday such a lovely lady! looking forward to meeting her again at club calypso!

Set in the north of England during the 1960's. Storm Clouds Gathering tells the remarkable tale of three different characters.

Shirley Burton works at the local mill but finds herself in trouble when her marriage to Jimmy goes through a rough patch and she is drawn to bad boy Billy.

Kathleen Mitchell is happily married to Joe, and they have a young family, she is good friends with Shirley, they work together at the mill, and they enjoy nights out together at the Bingo. Kathleen is lucky to have a win at the Bingo. But is her luck about to change?

Anne Simpson is a caring and good teacher who goes out of her way to help her young pupils. Engaged to school master Paul Betham her future seems to be all planned out for her. But will it be a happy ever after?

I have nothing but praise for author Pauline Barclay, who knows how to write wonderful and moving emotional stories. The story really draws you in for the start, and the excellent way each chapter is written makes this a real page turner. This is a book you just cannot put down, and you will not be able to resist reading on to see what will happen.

Pauline Barclay has an amazingly easy style that just carries you along. The clouds gather gradually, almost imperceptibly at times; it is a clever title that held my faith that in time things would kick off and indeed they did! Her books at face value seem soft and romantic, full of emotion, and the empathy you feel for her characters keeps you with them; and yet, she does deal with the darker side of life, especially in Satchfield Hall.

Her people speak, and apparently listen, to each other at length, not always in a realistic way, but this does not annoy; rather it makes me think that this is how people should converse instead of constantly interrupting, hesitating or flinging insults. Not wishing to give away any spoilers, I love the stand the teacher, Anne, makes; it encapsulates the emerging independence of young women of the 1960s and the struggle it represented. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story.

When real storm clouds gather in our lives, we often feel it to the core. There's a physical reaction: we feel cold, the hair rises on our arms, we shiver. There's an emotional reaction, too: we worry. What is going to happen? What doom might befall us or our loved ones? The reason we have such an intense reaction, of course, is because we care about our own safety and that of our loved ones.

Pauline Barclay captures this emotional intensity well in her most recent novel, Storm Clouds Gathering. The metaphor of an approaching storm is quite apt for this wonderful novel. The storm clouds approach and hover over three families whose lives are intertwined in both direct and subtle ways. Three different families struggle with three very different issues and hardships. Three families face unique storms, and they each weather them differently.

The beauty of Barclay's novel of course involves the story itself. The storms that gather over the characters absolutely hold readers' interest. The storms are real and they are intense and any given storm could definitely happen to anyone in the real world. They all have, actually, in some way or another. Despite the fact that I have not experienced a storm identical to one in Barclay's novel, I could see myself in each of those characters, and I could directly relate to various elements of their storms. That I have not directly experienced the very realistic problems faced by the characters yet found myself understanding them and relating to them in a very real way is an indication of Pauline Barclay's talent and beautiful writing.

Yes, the story is deeply compelling. It takes more than a compelling storyline, though, to make a great novel. For me, the characters and the extent to which I connect with them are what really make or break a story. In real life, we have an emotional reaction to gathering storm clouds because we care about the people affected by the brewing storm. In Barclay's Storm Clouds Gathering, I absolutely had emotional reactions because I cared deeply for the characters. Barclay has created realistic, vulnerable characters, characters who, like real people, have strengths and weaknesses. Her characters, each with a distinct personality, are human. Barclay brings them to life in a very powerful way, and as I read I felt very connected to each of them in different ways.

Find shelter, hunker down, and brace yourself for Storm Clouds Gathering.

Three women, three relationships, each with their own story to tell.
Shirley is a bubbly mill worker, married to Jimmy. They are childless. Shirley craves excitement and turns to Billy for that excitement, until a turn of events brings her some major decisions to make.

Shirley's best friend, Kathleen is married to Joe and has two children. Their lives are about to turn upside down in a heartbeat.

Anne, a primary school teacher is engaged to Paul. Their views of their future together are very different. They will have to make compromises or jepordise their future.

Set in the 1960's this novel was reminiscent of the 70's when I was growing up. I picked up on the author's attention to detail when describing every day language, events and objects that are now obsolete in today's society, such as ashtrays on buses and clocking in machines.

These three women, it seems, were born in the wrong era. Their forward thinking and actions would not have such an impact on their lives had they been born in modern times.

A wonderfully written novel that will have you reaching for the tissues.
I loved it!

Already being a fan of Pauline Barclay's previous novels, I have been eagerly waitIng for her 4th novel to be released. I was certainly not disappointed, Storm Clouds Gathering had me hooked from the first page. Another beautifully written story where I felt like the characters were friends, Pauline's ability to make them seem so real just kept me turning the pages, desperate to find out what awaits them next!!! I cried and laughed with them, and at times wished I could have a cuppa with them too! The ending is fantastic and has me wondering if there is another story to tell!! Well done and I am eagerly awaiting the next book!

The first novel of Pauline Barclay's that I have read but I will certainly read others by the same author. The background of a mid 1960s mill town is well depicted and I recognised a number of 60s references, bringing back that era to my mind. The issues of loss, betrayal and bereavement were sensitively handled. I just wonder whether Pauline managed to write this novel without tears, as there were sections where I felt that I might not be able to read any more, the emotions of painful loss were so clearly depicted.

This is Pauline's latest and best book. It is written in a slightly different style from her other books and reminded me of Catherine Cookson. Set in the sixties (my childhood) it brought many memories back for me of how simple life used to be before mobile phones and computers.Having to go to a phone box or using a neighbour's phone and leaving money for the call,all things alien to young people of today.
One of the characters, Anne Simpson was particularly special for me as that was my name before I married and it was so strange seeing it in print,thank goodness I liked her.
This story has laughter, tragedy, adultery and hardship, all you need for a good read.
It is the story of three women,two who are connected and a third who will be. One who won't listen to friendly advice and suffers the consequences and another who doesn't really know the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. The third woman puts her family before herself and what happens could be a warning to us all.
I liked the three women in the story, I cared what happened to them and that is what I look for in a book,something that makes me want to pick it up and read as much as I can before household chores beckon. Women were definitely the strongest sex in Pauline's story with the men coming second. As well as liking characters Pauline did change my mind during the book as a few I disliked I ended up actually liking or at least realising what made them the way they were.
A cracking good read and as the storm clouds gathered again for a least one of the women at the end of the story I'm left wondering if Pauline maybe has a sequel planned,but then I always want more of a good story.
Storm Clouds Gathering is a five star read.

If there is one thing Pauline is good at it's weaving a good story around memorable central characters. In this case we have three women, two of whom are friends another who has a tenuous link to one of them. Am not giving away any of the storyline only to say that events conspire to bring these three together in a most unexpected way. Growing up in the sixties it was good to take myself back to those times again. An enjoyable and sometimes emotional read.

This book accurately reflects the '60s, makes you laugh, cry and think how times have changed. Pauline, another great story!

After reading the first three books of Pauline's I couldn't wait for the next one and I wasn't disappointed, loved it! Enjoyed meeting all the characters and seeing how they were brought together by the tragedy and heartbreak that hit their lives. Pauline made it so easy to visualise each person, even down to their way of dressing.

This was one of the best books I've read for a long time. Three different families' stories, interwoven and brought together by tragedy and heartbreak. Twists and turns aplenty, a complete page-turned that I found myself reading late into the night. Pauline Barclay has obviously done a huge amount of research to get descriptions perfect, including the typical 1960's dress-code and the way women were just starting to gain independence. I would feel quite confident recommending this book to anyone; old, young, male or female. It really is a novel that will fill your heart and leave you sad when it ends.

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