Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 23, 2018

Changing Patterns (2013), by Judith Barrow

I read Changing Patterns as light relief while making my way through the more demanding Multiple Personalities.  It’s apparently a sequel to another family saga called Pattern of Shadows and there’s another one in the trilogy called Living in the Shadows but I didn’t know that when I picked it up from the library.  I was attracted by the cover image of young women from my mother’s era in what looks like London, but isn’t.  It’s postwar Ashford in Lancashire, and the book is published by a Welsh women’s press, which has an interesting story of its own (as I discovered when I got to the last page of the book):

Honno is an independent co-operative press run by women and committed to bringing you the best in Welsh women’s writing.

It was established in 1986 by a determined group of volunteers who wanted to increase the opportunities for Welsh women in publishing and bring Welsh women’s literature to a wider public. They asked the people of Wales to show their support for the new enterprise by becoming shareholders in the cooperative and in the first six months more than 400 people bought shares. Honno continues to be supported by hundreds of individual shareholders who believe in its work.

True to its roots the press still only publishes work by women of Wales. Most of Honno’s titles are novels, autobiographies and short story anthologies in English as well as Classics in both Welsh and English. We have in the past also published poetry, children’s and teenage titles and books in both Welsh and English.

Um, yes, there are a couple of spoilers below…

The dramatic opening of Changing Patterns features a hit-and-run accident that might not be an accident at all, but the story soon morphs into a melange of sibling rivalries and (in those pre-contraception days) misbegotten pregnancies.  The elder sister Mary (after whom the trilogy is named) is the saintly one, who in a relationship with a former German POW called Peter, has moved to the (fictional?) village of Llamroth in Wales to get away from bad memories but can’t escape her needy family.  When her brother Tom, a conscientious objector during the war, is killed in the accident, her sister Ellen arrives for the funeral in misery that has little to do with the death of the brother.  She’s distraught because she suspects her husband of having an affair.  (Her indignation seems a bit excessive when it turns out that her first child was conceived with Mary’s then boyfriend out of spite, but her nice husband loves this child as his own.) Then Jean, wife of Mary’s brother Patrick arrives in misery too, because Patrick hit her when they were having a row.  Patrick is a philanderer and a black marketeer and oh dear, though they don’t know it yet, he’s got some other foolish woman pregnant too.

But no sooner have they all gone back to Ashford than Ellen has a breakdown because she caused her hateful old mother-in-law to have a heart attack and die – and Mary has to abandon Peter to go and help.  And just before she goes, she discovers The Awful Truth about him, and decides it’s all over, only to find out that she’s pregnant…

There is a thoroughly nasty piece of work called Frank Shuttleworth who goes on wreaking havoc on this family from the grave, but Peter turns up from Llamroth to save the day in time to prevent a tragedy.  Which is apparently enough to absolve him from a crime for which the penalty was hanging, in those days.

Well, it is a bit Days of Our Lives.  Though they have their reflective moments, the characters are a bit one-dimensional, and the plot taxes credibility here and there.  But unlike Days of Our Lives, it is engaging enough, and it doesn’t go on forever. (Wikipedia tells me that DOOL started in 1965 and is still going.)

Author: Judith Barrow
Title: Changing Patterns
Publisher: Honno, Wales, 2013
ISBN: 9781906784393
Source: Kingston Library

Available from Fishpond: Changing Patterns



  1. I love learning about community efforts like this press; it makes me feel quite hopeful about the future of publishing. On a separate note, do you ever wonder what your search record on Wikipedia must look like when you’re researching about various matters related to your reading: I’m betting it’s a terrifically mixed bag! *grins*


    • *chuckle* You are so right about my search history… ASIO has probably assigned a full-time case worker to analyse it. Because I Googled ‘schizophrenia’ and ‘multiple personalities’ for the book before this one, Facebook ads are offering me all kinds of mental health care options!


  2. Love the story of Honno.


    • Yes, it’s good, isn’t it? And there is something distinctive about Welsh writing that’s worth supporting in practical ways like this … there are some examples of Welsh in the dialogue in this book: ‘cariad’ is one that I worked out, it means darling or sweetheart but is also used by an older lady to her young friend. Such a beautiful word!
      It was also nice to read a Welsh book that doesn’t reference Welsh male choirs. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but they can be a bit of a cliché if they turn up in every book set in Wales IMO, and including them all the time can give the impression that Welsh mining culture is all there is to Wales.


  3. You’d have to have been a dedicated pacifist to be a conscientious objector during WWII (does the author discuss it at all?). I wonder if we need a Honno and they could use a WWW Challenge.


    • No, she doesn’t discuss it, except (tiptoeing around spoilers) to have a character say that he wouldn’t have done what he’s accused of because he was a CO.
      I think it’s always difficult to be a CO, but WW2 would have been extremely difficult because it’s the nearest one there is that’s a ‘just war’.


Please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: