The Sugar Girls : Tales of Hardship, Love and Happiness in Tate & Lyle's East End, Paperback

The Sugar Girls : Tales of Hardship, Love and Happiness in Tate & Lyle's East End Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Tales of Hardship, Love and Happiness in Tate & Lyle's East End Factories.

The Sugar Girls went straight to No.10 in the Sunday Times Bestseller List, spending five weeks in the top ten. 'On an autumn day in 1944, Ethel Alleyne walked the short distance from her house to Tate & Lyle's refinery on the shining curve of the Thames.

Looking up at the giant gates, Ethel felt like she had been preparing for this moment all her life.

She smoothed down her frizzy hair, scraped a bit of dirt off the corner of her shoe and strode through.

She was quite unprepared for the sight that met her eyes ...' In the years leading up to and after the Second World War thousands of women left school at fourteen to work in the bustling factories of London's East End.

Despite long hours, hard and often hazardous work, factory life afforded exciting opportunities for independence, friendship and romance.

Of all the factories that lined the docks, it was at Tate & Lyle's where you could earn the most generous wages and enjoy the best social life, and it was here where The Sugar Girls worked.

Through the Blitz and on through the years of rationing The Sugar Girls kept Britain sweet. The work was back-breakingly hard, but Tate & Lyle was more than just a factory, it was a community, a calling, a place of love and support and an uproarious, tribal part of the East End.

From young Ethel to love-worn Lillian, irrepressible Gladys to Miss Smith who tries to keep a workforce of flirtatious young men and women on the straight and narrow, this is an evocative, moving story of hunger, hardship and happiness.

Tales of adversity, resilience and youthful high spirits are woven together to provide a moving insight into a lost way of life, as well as a timeless testament to the experience of being young and female.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 352 pages, 1 map
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: True stories
  • ISBN: 9780007448470



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Ever since reading the Midwive's series, I have taken a great liking to thse kind of books. A group of women, who at various times had worked for the sugar factory. Book explains how easy it was to get employment, a far cry from current times, a woman could start one job in the morning, decide she didn't like it and get a different job by the afternon. A good series, highlighting the many sociological and personal prejudices of the forties and fifties. One girl is forced to give up her child, because unmarried mothers were finished as were their families. Such an innocent time, while at the same time woman had little personal freedom. The prose is rather simplistic, but this is the author just setting down the words the women told him. Tate & Lyle were once two different companies, they merged and were the biggest employer in the East End.