Blurb; Veronica Bird was one of nine children living in a tiny house in Barnsley with a brutal coal miner for a father. Life was a despairing time in the Fifties as Veronica sought desperately to keep away from his cruelty. However, a glimmer of hope revealed itself as she, astonishingly to her and her mother, won a scholarship to Ackworth Boarding School where she began to shine above her class-mates.
A champion in all sports, Veronica at last found some happiness. That was until her brother-in-law came into her life. It was as if she had stepped from the frying pan into the fire.
He soon began to take control over her life removing her from the school she adored, two terms before she was due to take her GCEs, so he could put her to work as cheap labour on his market stall. Abused for many years by these two men, Veronica eventually ran away from him and applied to the Prison Service, intuiting that it was the only safe place she could trust.
Accepted into the Prison Service at a time when there were few women working in the industry, Veronica applied herself every day to learning her new craft even training in Holloway Prison where Myra Hindley was an inmate. With no wish to go outside the prison, Veronica remained inside on-duty. While her colleagues went out to the pub, the theatre or to dine she didn’t feel able to join them.
Her dedication was recognised and she rose rapidly in the Service moving from looking after dangerous women prisoners on long-term sentences to violent men and coming up against such infamous names as The Price sisters, Mary Bell and Charles Bronson. The threat of riots was always very close and escapes had to be dealt with quickly.
After becoming a Governor, Veronica was tasked with what was known within the Service as a ‘basket case’ of a prison. However, with her diligence and enthusiasm Veronica managed to turn it around whereupon it became a model example to the country and she was recognised with an honour from the Queen. With this recognition the EU invited her to lead a team to Russia and her time in Ivanovo Prison, north east of Moscow, provides an illuminating and humorous insight into a different prison culture.
My Review; I absolutely loved this book! I have always been fascinated about prisons, so this book was perfect. A little different from what I usually read as this is a non fiction book, a true story. But it’s brilliant!
As a true story you really get to know Veronica up close and personal, through the good and bad! She is a woman I admire with an interesting life story to tell. I was well and truelly hooked, I wanted to know everything about what this woman experienced and had to tell me especially inside of the prisons she worked in.
Parts will have you laughing, parts will make you gasp. Veronica is one extraordinary woman. I loved the photos included in the middle of the book making it more personal and a look into the history of how prisons were run and criminals dealt with (a lot has changed since then).
Beautifull written and told. Highly recommend. A story that is going to stick with me for a long time. A well deserved five stars from me.