Book Review: The Girl From Station X

This review was written for Lovereading UK. The book will be available to order from them once published in March 2014.

Written largely from her mother’s personal diaries, Elisa Segrave’s book, ‘The Girl From Station X’, provides an interesting account of a privileged young woman’s life before, during and after the Second World War. It is, however, much more than just a memoir. It is obvious from the beginning that the author has issues with the way her mother treated her throughout her life. The book provides a sometimes brutally raw account of complex family relationships over several generations, and the fallout that these generate.

The book quotes extensively and directly from the diaries, interspersing these passages with the author’s opinions. Although adding authenticity to the unfolding tale, I found this approach quite difficult to engage with at times. The chapters covering the war years in particular contain a great deal of detail about intelligence processing, battles and strategies as well as the day to day lives of those involved.

We are introduced to many people, making it hard at times to remember their relevance. The author jumps back and forth between the time being covered by the diaries and later times that she can recall. My impression was that she is justifying her personal resentments as much as telling her mother’s life story.

A protagonist finding strength in adversity is a common enough theme, and the story does cover how the author’s mother rose to the challenge of the war. It is rare, however, to read a memoir that does not attempt to tug at the heartstrings, but provides such an honest study of human weaknesses.




I have not travelled abroad in many years. In my younger days, before I was married, I would think nothing of embarking on adventures to the far flung corners of the world. I would book flights or travel by boat and train to unknown continents and countries, happily assuming that I would be able to sort out cheap accommodation wherever I ended up. Many of these journeys were undertaken alone.

As a student I was always travelling on a tight budget. I would sleep on whatever transport system I was using, in a tent or find an incomplete building in a resort and curl up in my sleeping bag in a corner. Sometimes I would stay with friends of friends; if I had acquired company then we would hitch lifts in lorries or from passing strangers. I wished to see as much of the world as possible before what little money I had ran out.

I had no interest in package holidays that involved pretty clothes and sunbathing. I wanted to explore, experience new cultures and see how other people thought and lived. As well as Europe I visited Africa, the Middle East and finally, just after I started work, had a more luxurious trip to Australia. I found the long, cramped flight hard to bear and it marked the end of my globe trotting.

Had my husband been keen to go out into the world with me then I guess we would have continued to travel, but he seemed happy to explore our own country. So long as holidays involved days spent walking long distances up and down high places, followed by a copious supply of good food, he was content. I was in love; if he was happy then so was I.

We have never taken our children abroad, but they are starting to explore the world for themselves. They have each made initial forays into Europe with school, and my daughter has just returned from a month in Africa with Scouts. Last summer I flew alone for the first time in twenty-five years when I made the short hop across the Irish Sea to visit family. It reminded me that travel itself can be fulfilling and fun.

I no longer crave excitement as I once did but recognise that pushing myself just a little beyond my comfort zone is good for my inner health. So long as I do not have to cope with those who bring me down I can still blossom and enjoy new situations, scary though I may now find the prospect. Thus I took the decision to break my habit of reticence and travel abroad this summer; just me and my older two children, even if only for a few days.

It feels as though a part of me that has been lying dormant has been awakened. I no longer have the confidence that I once had, but the interest and appreciation of difference is still there. My day to day life is so insular and I wish to expand both my knowledge and my outlook.

This vague plan would not have come to fruition had a friend not made the generous offer to host us in his small apartment. As seasoned campers we will be fine with the facilities available, but I am so aware that we will be invading his space. Having said that, I am as excited about having the opportunity to spend time with him as with seeing the city. A proper catch up with an old and dear friend is a rare treat for me. I look forward to our discussions at least as much as the sight seeing.

To prepare for our visit my friend provided us with a DVD explaining some of the history of the city we will be exploring. I have always enjoyed history and am eager to learn more; this is also the main reason for taking my children. An appreciation of European history from a non British perspective can only help them to understand how we got to where we are today.

I am being offered a gentle reintroduction to exploration and discovery with an informed and friendly hand to guide me. I am stepping out into a world that was once mine for the taking rather than hiding behind my husband’s preferences and desires. For five days I will have the opportunity to be me; I am intrigued as to what I will discover.

Thus, in a couple of weeks time I will have a fascinating city to experience, a friend to spend time with, and a chance to reveal how much of the person I once was remains. It should be an interesting trip.

English: The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989. Th...